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The Book of the Art 
of Cennino Cennini 

v*Tphe Book of the Art of 

1 Cennino Cennini 

A Contemporary Practical Treatise 
on Quattrocento Painting 

Translated from the Italian, with 
Notes on Mediaeval Art Methods 

London : George Allen & Unwin, Ltd, 
Ruskin House, 40 Museum Street W. C. i 

fj .RY 

\ i 

,% \ il82 


First published in i8gg 4 
Second Impression ig22 


MRS. MERRIFIELD'S translation of-Cennino's treatise, 
// libra' dell' Arte o Trattato delta Pittura, the only 
English one existing until now, was made from 
Tambroni's Italian edition of the manuscript he found 
in the Vatican; which was also used for the French 
edition by Mottez. This MS. of the eighteenth cen- 
tury is deficient in sixteen* chapters which are to be 
found in the two earlier Florentine MSS., the Riccar- 
diana and the Laurentiana. These are Nos. 162-177 
inclusive. The translation is often very incorrect, 1 
owing perhaps to a want of practical knowledge of the 
processes; but the style is pleasant, and I have kept 
as far as possible to the words I had grown accus- 
tomed to before I knew the original Italian. The recent 
German translation by Ilg is made from the Italian 
edition printed by the Milanesi from the Florentine 
MSS. in 1859, and was corrected from the MSS. 
I have used the same Italian edition ; and the German 
edition has been a most valuable book of reference in 
" translating difficult passages. I found a few inaccu- 
racies, but was probably prevented by it from making 

1 Mrs. Merrifield's other translations, especially from Latin, seem to 
be very accurate. 


vi Preface 

more and worse mistakes myself. My justification for 
undertaking a new translation is that I have really 
used the treatise to learn tempera-painting, and that 
I have for a good many years been trying to find out 
how to produce by this method the various effects of 
fifteenth-century painting, having also read everything 
else I could find that might bear on the subject. 1 

My quotations are all taken direct from the original 
MSS. or the best editions of them. 

To conclude, I borrow a short passage from the 
preface to the French edition of Cennino by Mottez. 
Commenting on the claim made by Tambroni that the 
treatise proves that oil-painting was invented in Italy, 
he says : 

" Oil-painting, whether invented in Italy or not, has 
certainly produced many masterpieces, but destroyed 
monumental painting, not only in developing the taste 
lor petty things and petty methods, but also in render- 
ing the labour so slow and so arduous, that in this 
method a great undertaking seems impracticable. . . . 
If the middle ages preferred fresco and tempera, that is, 
size- vehicles, monumental painting proves the justice 
of the preference, and the work of Cennino establishes 

victoriously that it was not done through ignorance." 

1 A more detailed examination of the old art-treatises than is possible 
in the limited space of these notes will be found in a German book pub- 
lished by Ernst Berger in 1897, Beitragc zur Entivickrlungs-geschichte 
dtr Maltechnik, Pt. III. The two first parts are about classical art. 





THE BOOK OF THE ART . ". \ . . i 


PAINTING . . . . . . .183 

THE 'TRATTATO' . . J 94 




GILDING . ; . . . . . 239 




INDEX 267 




THIS treatise is properly so named. It is a compre- 
hensive technical manual, teaching everything belong- 
ing to the painter's craft in the time of the writer. It 
is not a mere collection of recipes like most of the 
monkish secrets, but a school of art, and emphatically 
the working directions of a man who could do what 
he taught. A recent German writer 1 on mediaeval 
painting and documents (and experimenter in technical 
methods) speaks of its value in strong terms " From 
no single later art-period have we received any work 
of similar origin, giving even approximately so com- 
prehensive a picture of technical processes, as this one 
does, and its value rises the higher from its connec- 
tion with the name of Giotto, the reformer of art. 
It is not only Cennino's technique and that of his con- 
temporaries which is contained in this work, but that 
of the great art giants of the fourteenth and fifteenth 
centuries, from Giotto, Fra Angelico, and Memmi, down 

1 Berger, Beit rape. III. p. 93, &c. 

x Cennino Cennini 

to Sandro Botticelli, Benozzo Gozzoli, Ghirlandajo, and 
so on." Through Giotto he was heir to countless 
generations, for had not Giotto founded his new Latin 
or rather Italian style on the old Greek tradition, 
infusing new life into it, and adapting it to more 
modern thought? 1 

It is worth while taking a little trouble to understand 
the traditional and personal instruction received by 
even a ' humble member ' (c. i ) of the great traditional 
school. Besides definite instruction, I think we get 
from Cennino just a glimpse into the moral and 
aesthetic sympathies of these painters. We stand by 
the side of one of them, and as he works and handles 
his materials, we appreciate better what he aims at 
doing with them, and how they form an intrinsic 
part of the soul of the picture not only of its body. 
We perceive the spiritual qualities which his subtle 
and refined technique help to depidt. 

There is not much known of the history and 
personality of Cennino, except what he tells us himself. 
He was the son of Drea Cennini of tins Colle di 
Valdelsa, and was instructed in the arts he writes 
about for twelve years by Agnolo Gaddi, son of 
Taddeo Gaddi, the godson and pupil of Giotto. His 
book is notes of what Agnolo taught him, and of what 
he had proved by his own hand (c. i). No doubt in 
chapter 104 (see also c. 4) we tyave a picture of his 
own apprenticeship, which cannot have ended later 
than 1 396, when Agnolo died, and supposing he began 
it when he was twelve years old, he would then be 

1 TrcUtato, c. i. 

The Author of the c Trattato ' 

twenty-four. Chapters 9, 27, and 29 give us a little 
insight into the life of a painter youth at that time, 
and the solid advice that the pupil has the best chance 
of attaining greatness if he forms himself on one 
master the best he can find instead of wandering 
from one to another. In chapter 28 the necessity 
of continually drawing from nature is insisted on. 
Chapters 2 and 3 and 29 assert the nobility of the art, 
and show by what attitude of mind and restrained and 
decorous way of life the painter may be worthy of it. 
Cennino's name is absent from the rolls of the Floren- 
tine Guilds, but appears two years after the death of 
Agnolo in two records discovered by the Milanesi at 
Padua. An important period in painting at Padua had 
just been inaugurated by the two leading followers of 
Giotto, d'Avanzo and Aldighiero, and here was the 
glorious work of the youth of the master, the frescoes 
in the Capella della Arena. 

Both the records just mentioned relate to Donna 
Ricca, Cennino's wife, and are dated respectively 
August 13, and the end of November of the year 1398. 
One is about a gift to her, and the other is a legal 
decision affecting her. The following facts may be 
gleaned from the records. 

(i) That the painter Cennino Cennirii lived in 
Padua in the year 1398, in the street S. Pietro, and 
being in the service of Francesco of Carrara, belonged 
to his household. (2) That he married a Donna 
Ricca of the Ricca of Citadella, a large market town 
in the Paduan territory. (3) That he had a brother 
of the name of Matteo who was a native of Padua 

xii Cennino Cennini 

and settled there, and was a trumpeter iri the pay 
of its prince. The two brothers are called in these 
Latin instruments Cennino de Colj, and Matteo da 
Colle, also Matheus de Coli. 

The treatise seems to have been written in Padua, 
judging from the words of the Venetian and Paduan 
patois which are introduced into it, accompanied by 
explanatory Tuscan terms ; also because of the invoca- 
tion of St. Anthony of Padua among the saints, under 
whose patronage the work is placed (c. i). This conjec- 
ture seems proved by chapter 180, where the customs 
of the women of Padua and of Florence are contrasted, 
and more fear is evinced by the writer of displeasing 
the Paduans, as if he were living among them, and 
might be the sufferer from any lack of discretion. 

Painters of greater renown than Cennino have 
died in poverty, and it has been supposed that he 
wrote his book as an old or elderly man, in the 
debtors' prison called the Stinchi in Florence, as it 
was thought that the following sentence at the end 
of the Vatican MS. gave the place and date of its 
composition: 'Finito libro referamus gratias xpo 1437. 
A dl 31 luglio ex Stincarum ec.' 1 This is not found 
in the Riccardiana MS. 2 (see Pref.). Benci, however, 
ascertained that the name of Cennini does not occur 
in the books of the prison of the year 1437, nor 
in any year near it. Let us hope that the sigh of 
relief over the accomplished task is only that of a 
copyist and not of the original author. 

1 Or ' 1437 Anno Domini' may be intended. 

8 Is apparently found in the older Laurcntiana Codex. 

The Author of the 'Trattato 


When Cennino arrived in Padua, the series of 
frescoes of Santa Felice in the Church of St. Anthony 
and in St. George's Chapel had been completed. 
Giusto of Padua, a fellow-pupil of his master Agnolo, 
was still alive, as he only died in 1400. It has 
been conjectured that he may have had a share in 
the frescoes of the hall of the palace (Crowe and 
Cavalcaselle), or in the works of the choir of the 
Capella deir Arena (Milanesi). Vasari mentions 
paintings by Cennino, which he had evidently seen, 
at the end of his little notice of the painter in Agnolo 
Gaddi's life. It is worth quoting. 1 " Cennino di Drea 
CenninL of Colle di Valdelsa, learned painting from 
this same Agnolo, and for love of his art he wrote 
with his own hand on the methods of painting in 
fresco, in tempera, in size, and in gum, and besides 
how to paint in miniature, and how gold is laid on 
for all these different kinds of painting, which book 
is in the hands of Giuliano, a Sienese goldsmith, an 
excellent master and a friend of these arts. At the 
beginning of his book he treated of the nature of pig- 
ments, minerals, and earths, as he had learned from 
Agnolo his master, wishing, as perhaps he had not 
succeeded in learning to paint perfectly, at least to 
know the waytto use colours, temperas, sizes, and 
how to make grounds ; and which colours must be 
avoided in mixture as injurious to each other, and 
in short many other matters, about which it is not 
necessary to speak, all those things being well known 
in our day which in those times they thought very 

1 Translated from Milanesi's Opere di Vasari. 

xiv Cennino Cennini 

secret and uncommon. I will not however omit that 
he does not make mention of certain earth colours; 
perhaps they may not have been in use; as red 
earths, dark earths, cinabrese, and certain vitreous 
greens. These must also have been rediscovered: 
umber, which is an earth colour, giallo santo (a 
yellow lake), smalts for fresco and oil-painting, and 
vitreous greens and yellows, which were wanting to 
the painters of that age. 1 Finally he treated of 
mosaics, of grinding colours in oil to make red, blue, 
green, and other coloured grounds, and for mordants 
for putting on gold, but not for figures (ma non gid 
per figure). Besides the works which he carried out 
in Florence with his master, there is by his own 
hand under the loggia of the hospital of Bonifazio 
Lupi, a Madonna with certain saints, coloured in such 
manner that it is very well preserved at the present 
day." 2 

1 Cennino mentions cinabrese and sinopia, a red earth, and dark as 
well as light ochre. 

8 When the loggia of this hospital was rebuilt in 1787 this picture of 
Cennino's was detached from the wall, transferred to canvas, and 
deposited in the Academia delle Belle Arti. Finally it went to the 
guardaroba of the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, but so disfigured 
and badly repainted that it is impossible to know what it may have 
been originally (Milanesi's " Vasari," I. 645, note). I could not find 
this picture. C. J. H. 


THE derivation of Giotto's school from 'Greek' 
sources which is apparent in the paintings themselves 
is supported by the internal evidence of the Trattato } 
that is, by its close family likeness to other ' Greek ' 
or Byzantine manuals. Giotto's art was the stirring 
of the soul in forms which had been sleeping for 
centuries. The detailed account given by Vasari of the 
Greek painters invited to Florence by the governors 
of the city, who inspired the young Cimabue, after- 
wards Giotto's master, has so far received no authen- 
tication from documents, but is not therefore proved 
false. No work which can with certainty be ascribed 
to Cimabue is known, 1 but he may have occupied a 
place in Florentine art similar to that of Duccio in 
Sienese painting, who, though a contemporary of 
Giotto (he died 1339, and Giotto 1336), is much 
nearer to the Byzantine manner than Giotto. 
"Duccio must have got his training from some 
Byzantine master, perhaps at Constantinople it- 
self. Whoever and wherever this master was, he 
must have been imbued with the feelings of that 
extraordinary revival of antique art which began at 

1 " Lectures on the National Gallery,' J. P. Richter. 


xvi Cennino Cennini 

Byzantium in the ninth and lasted on into the thir- 
teenth century." 1 

Giotto did not suddenly evoke an entirely new 
art. He was the child of the best Byzantine art, the 
young son of an old mother, able in a freer atmos- 
phere, unfettered by the trammels imposed by the 
Eastern Church, to inspire with the truth of life the 
old types and picture-schemes while retaining his 
inheritance of classic dignity. He inherited ideality, 
the art of composing within a given space a know- 
ledge of grace, of posing, of proportion. He added 
to this a convincing reality and truthfulness of senti- 
ment and action dramatic force, human passion, 
touches of nature and accident. But "we always 
come back to this, that the inventions which we are 
inclined to ascribe to the little-creative middle ages, 
are only accomplishments of the thought of Graeco- 
Christian antiquity." 2 

Byzantine art has been too often thought lifeless 
and childish in ignorance of the best, or in contempt 
of its ideals. The period of the Comnene emperors, 
[middle of eleventh century till sack of Byzantium, 
1204], produced the finest MSS. One of these, 
now in the British Museum, 8 contains figures of 
real beauty, which show what quality of art the 
Italian renaissance of painting had for its starting- 

1 "The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance," Berenson, p. 41, 
note. t)r. Richter concurs in this opinion. 

a Religious Art, Schriftquellen zur Geschichte der Karolinischen 
Kunst, J. von Schlosser, p. 324. 

* " Martyrology," by Simeon MeUphrastes. In show-case. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xvii 

It is not possible to attempt here even the bare 
outline of the history of church-painting through the 
middle ages. Churches were universally covered 
with painting inside, and where the architecture was 
Gothic, with sculpture outside. 1 

Elaborate rules existed for the composition and 
arrangement of the 'Stories' of the pictures. Such 
is the second part of the Hermeneia. In the re- 
mains of all this painting which still exist, the best 
being miniatures in MSS., the close resemblances of 
subject, grouping, poses, and drapery point irresistibly 
to the existence of a recognised source or fountain- 
head of actual pictures which were copied and re- 
copied : as in Russian monasteries now new Icons 
are copied from the old greatly cherished models 
which are kept and handed down from generation 
to generation. A very remarkable collection of old 
Russian sacred pictures or Icons, belonging to Mr. 
Rae of Birkenhead, contains a good many examples 
so like early Sienese painting that they appear to be 
c one school. The merits of both are almost entirely 
tnose of the traditional Byzantine art, which is not 
only quaint and curious but has its own beauty 
or rather, grandeur 'si profond si merveilleux, si 
admirable/ as Victor Hugo calls it. 

It is a debated point whether, wherever we find 
a survival of classical forms, we must trace it to a 
Byzantine source, but in the main I believe that to be 
the truth. In Roman times painting did not become 
truly cosmopolitan, but remained principally in the 

1 See " Christian Iconography," Didron. 

xviii Cennino Cennini 

hands of Greeks, and retreated with them to the Eas- 
tern Empire, which retained its ancient splendour. 1 

The Church in the East controlled the invention of 
the painters much more than it ever attempted to do 
in the West, but probably for a long time this rather 
had the effect of raising than debasing the standard. 
The kind of uniformity enforced by the well-known 
canon of the Second Council of Nice need not be 
derogatory to the painter's art. To be debarred from 
novelty may direct the attention to nobility. "The 
composition of the figures is not the invention of the 
painters, but the law and tradition of the Catholic 
Church, which has been proved. For what excels 
in ancient things is to be venerated, as says St. 
Basil, and this purpose and tradition is not the part 
of the painter (for his is only the art), but is the 
ordination and disposition of our fathers/ 1 

I will now give a slight sketch of the way the 
Trattato is linked to the old Greece- Roman art by way 
of the Byzantine, how it carries on the same technical 
traditions through a connected literature reaching back 
to the Augustan age. Giotto had learned and handed 
on the methods of the Greeks plus his own improve- 
ments, 2 and Cennino wrote this out with further im- 
provements. Fortunately that kind of thing had been 

done before, and often enough to bridge the centuries 


1 Sec Quellen der Bytantinischen Kunstgeschichte t Unger ; " The 
Church of St Sophia," Lethaby. 

* The change which he wrought "from the Greek to the more 
modern manner " is considered by some to apply partly to technique. 
Ilg and Berger suggest the final discarding of wax and of dark 
varnishes, and the readoption of egg vehicles. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xix 

fairly well. The best way to give some notion of the 
written traditions (if I may be allowed the apparent 
contradiction in terms) is to begin with a few short 
statements of our knowledge of classical technique so 
far as it is relevant to the subject in hand. Theo- 
phrastus, Aristotle's successor in the peripatetic school 
(about 370-368 B.C.) is, I believe, the only really 
ancient Greek who has written on* the technical side of 
art. The fragment of his history of stones which we 
possess gives some account of a few painters' and 
builders' materials. Vitruvius, in the Augustan age, 
wrote on architecture, taking his theories from Greek 
books, and the practical part from his own experi- 
ence. He describes the preparation of the wall for 
painting in fresco, and gives a list of pigments similar 
to Pliny's, but shorter. Pliny the elder (A.D. 23-79) 
seems to have taken a great interest in painting, 
especially in the pigments used, of which he has evi- 
dently given as full an account as he could collect. 
He principally compiled from Greek authorities. 

Vitruvius twice speaks of painting on wet plaster, 
i.e. lime and marble-dust stucco, and explains how 
everything solidifies with the lime into one mass, and 
" the colours when they are carefully laid on the wet 
plaster do not come off, but are permanent for ever." 
Pliny names the colours which will not bear the wet 
plaster but must be painted on chalk. In another 
place he says caeruleum will not bear lime, and again 
that a particular kind of 'sil* (yellow ochre) resists 
the bitterness of the lime. Neither is clear about the 
method of painting pictures on walls, and the very 

xx Cennino Cennini 

large spaces at Pompeii without joins make it difficult 
to understand how fresco alone can have been used, 
even allowing for the slow drying of a much thicker 
stucco than is ever used now, and for extreme sure- 
ness and rapidity in painting. 1 

A recent conjecture has been that the broad coloured 
spaces were fresco, and that this is all that Pliny and 
Vitruvius give any account of and that the subject 
painting may have been done with a watery emulsion 
of wax partially saponified, which would combine 
chemically with the lime. Many theories have been 
held at various times as to how wax could have been 
used on walls. 2 As both Vitruvius and Pliny say that 
black for coating walls must have an admixture of 
glue (t.e. size), and as Pliny describes how purpurissum 
could be painted over sandyx (perhaps here red lead) 
to imitate vermilion, and over caeruleum to make 
purple by mixing it with egg, it has sometimes been 
assumed that wall-painting was finished in secco in 
the same way as in the middle ages ; but the extreme 
endurance and freshness of Pompeian painting put 
these perishable vehicles out of court, unless merely 
used as an assistance in working on the wet stucco. 8 

Some small pictures, especially portraits, were 
painted with colours mixed with wax, heat being used 

1 See Helbig and Donner, Wandgemdlde von Vcsuv vcrschutteltcn 
Stddten. 9 

8 Berger's Bcitriige> Parts I. and II. 

3 In a process of buon fresco now used in Jeypore, a little size is 
used in applying lamp-black and red lead, and a little gum with the 
other colours, green, yellow, and brown earths. The protecting 
crystallisation of the lime takes place. Quoted from R.LB. A. Journal. 
See Millar's " Plastering," p. 220. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxi 

in some way in the process to blend and fix the paint- 
ing. The Hawara portraits taken from mummies, 
in the National Gallery, the British Museum, and the 
Louvre give some notion of this kind of painting, 
wonderfully forcible in spite of incorrectness and 
coarseness of drawing and modelling. Wax paint 
mixed with resins, oil, or balsams was used for ordi- 
nary decorative purposes on buildings and woodwork 
and ships as we use oil paint, and wax liquefied with 
a little oil, and driven into the wall with heat, was used 
to protect vermilion, and perhaps other wall-painting. 

Other materials used by painters were: Rhodian 
glue, made from the ears and certain other parts of 
the finer integument of bulls ; gum from the Egyptian 
thorn and the sarcocolla. Fish-glue, i.e. ichthyocolla, 
is named, but not its uses. A good many resins 
and oils were known to Pliny, and the fact that 
resins can be dissolved in oil. 

Taking two passages in Pliny together, we get 
the method of gilding most used all through the 
middle ages " Gold-leaf is laid over marble, &c., with 
white of egg, on wood with glue properly composed; 
they call it leucophoron." In another place he says 
that sinopia (a red earth), light sil (yellow ochre), 
and melinum (a white earth), in certain proportions 
make leucophoron. In the old Russian manual of 
painting, the Podlinnik (see p. xxxii), of Byzantine 
origin, the ground of chalk and size on panels (no 
doubt overlaid with gilding), is called leucas (Rus- 
sian Levkass) from the Greek word \evtcos, meaning 
light; or bright - coloured ; the original meaning of 

xxii Cennino Cennini 

leucophoron in Pliny's time being, I suppose, that 
which bore the bright gold coating. 1 

There can be no doubt that some kind of painting 
which may broadly be called tempera was known 
to the ancient Greek painters, as well as to the 
Egyptians, but the arguments are too complicated to 
be given here. 2 

These scraps of information in Pliny about practical 
work must have been picked up here and there from 
craftsmen, or from workshop note-books, and one 
such document dating from the period of the Roman 
Empire has been preserved, namely, the Leyden Papy- 
rus, found in a tomb at Thebes, and dating from the 
third or the beginning of the fourth century A.D. 8 

This Papyrus, the manual of a worker in metal or 
alchemist, who was perhaps also a scribe, has affinity 
in some of the recipes to phrases contained in Pliny 
and Vitruvius and other authors, and in some to 
the writings of the Greek alchemists. There are 
about sixteen formulas relating to gold and silver 
writing, which writing on papyrus, stone, or metal, 
engaged the attention of the Egyptian scribes.* On 

1 " Iconographie Sacnfe en Russia "(Revue arckfologigue), vol. vii. 
pp. 174, 234, 321. 

2 Pacheco, the master of Velasquez, basing his opinion on the allu- 
sion to egg as a vehicle for purpurissum, says, "Much veneration 
and respect is due to painting in temptra for having had its birthday 
with art itself, and for being the first which was practised in the world, 
and in which the famous ancient artists did so many marvels." Arte de 
lapintura, 1641. 

8 Papyri Greed Musei Antiquarii publici Lugduni Batavi, &c. 
Edited C. Leemans, torn. ii. Papyrus x. 
4 See Histoire de la chimie du moyen-dge, Berthelot, pp. 3-73. 

Pedigree of the c Trattato' xxiii 

the three last pages are extracts chiefly relating to 
pigments from Dioscorides 1 (De materia medica, 
Book V.). The following passage (Papyrus ', p. ix. 
c. 7) seems to contain the earliest reference to white 
of egg and gum mixed as a tempera for colours. 
"Mixing the flower of cnecus (crocus?), white gum, 
and the white of an egg in a shell, mingle it with 
the bile of tortoise (yellow), just as you do for colours, 
then use. But calfs bile acts on the surface very 
sharply." This is for a simulated gold-writing. Now 
comes a real rivet in the continuity of documents. 
The earliest mediaeval 'workshop note-book,' that 
variously called the Byzantine MS., the Lucca MS., 
and Compositiones, in Italian handwriting of the 
eighth century, is evidently translated in part at least 
from Greek originals, and besides in several passages 
resembling the Papyrus, has one which is textually 
identical with another of the numerous formulas for 
gold- writing contained in that manuscript, showing 
how widespread and interlinked these technical 
processes must have been. The Papyrus was pro- 
bably entombed nearly four centuries before the Lucca 
MS. was written. 

The Lucca MS. 2 consists of short practical recipes 
for making coloured glass, dyeing skins, gold-beating 
and gilding, for making various glues, varnishes, and 
a few pigments, including the first distinct directions 
for making artificial vermilion; also of long lists of 

1 Said by Suidas to have lived under Antony and Cleopatra, perhaps 

3 In the cathedral library at Lucca, and very carelessly and incor- 
rectly printed by Muratori. Antiquitates Italic^ II. p. 365. 

xxiv Cennino Cennini 

substances useful in the decorative trades, with some 
description of their nature in fact a miniature 
'historia' of minerals. (For the recipes for oil and 
varnish contained in this MS. see p. 262.) 

The very little and vague information which this 
MS. affords about painting seems to be nearly the 
same as Pliny's. There are some indications of 
fresco. Fish-glue ichthyocolla is distinctly spoken 
of as a tempera for colours. Bull-glue makes the 
priming for gilding, with gesso and white of egg, 
prepared by whipping (subtile), as the mordant. 
Several simple and elaborate varnishes are described 
for colouring tin, and for protecting both gold and 
painting. Besides the passages which supply this 
information, there is one mentioning vehicles for 
painting which is not altogether unambiguous, there- 
fore I give the Latin as well as the translation. 1 

"All these things we have described from the earth 
and the sea, from flowers and herbs, we have ex- 
plained their virtues and the operations of all painters 
with them on walls and on wood, on linen cloths 
and on skins. Thus we note these operations with 
them all on walls simple, on wood the colours being 
mixed with wax, on skins fish-glue being mixed " (i.e. 
on parchment for books). "Hec omnia exposuimus 
(Ja (ja ex terrenis maritimis floribus vel herbis ex- 
posuimus virtutes vel operationes earum in parieti- 
bus et lignis linteolis pellibus et omnium pictorum. 
Ita memoramus omnium operationes q, in parietibus 

1 I have a photograph of this page of the MS. Berger, quoting the 
passage, omits the ' in ' between simplice and ligno (Beitrdge, Part III.). 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxv 

simplice in ligno cere commixtis coloribus in pellibus 
ictiocollon commixtum." Simplex means properly 
unmixed, and the untempered or water-tempered 
painting of fresco seems intended. But a different 
rendering has been suggested by the advocates of 
wax theories for wall-painting, who, setting aside the 
three clauses made by the repetition of the word ' in/ 
translate "operations on walls and wood with colours 
simply mixed with wax, and on skins with fish-glue." 
Wax-painting is continually alluded to by the fathers 
of the Church, especially for portraits and painting 
on panels; sometimes wall-painting seems to be in- 
tended. Wax has been found in one c two analyses 
of mediaeval pictures of much later date than this MS. ; 
but in these cases it seems most likely to be a kind 
of varnish over tempera, like the protecting wax and 
oil of Pliny and Vitruvius over vermilion. Branchi 
analysed bits of paint from very early Pisan pictures. 
Those having a bright surface gave indications of wax 
used as varnish, but not those having a dull surface. 
The most certain signs of this substance are obtained 
from pictures which can be attributed to the time of 
Giunta, from which period gloss and wax diminished. 1 

In some alterations in the Ste Chapclle, an early 
painting of the Annunciation was found painted on 
the bare stone. First there was a fatty resinous 
ground, then an orange-red cement, then leaf-gold, 
then pure fresh colour, lastly wax. 2 

A great part of the Lucca MS. is repeated in the 

1 Morrona's Pisa illustrata, edition Livorno, 1812. 

2 Henry and Cros, Ucncaitstiijitc. 


Cennino Cennini 

MappcB Clavicula (the little key of drawing), a MS. 
of the twelfth century, which also contains a treatise 
on metals, having a striking resemblance to the Papy- 
rus, and further instances of textual identity with it. 1 

As it contains one or two English words, this MS. 
was probably written in England. There is another 
copy at Schlettstadt in Alsace, written in the tenth 
century. The French chemist Berthelot has shown 
that the industrial practices of these related MSS. 
(Papyrus, Lucca, Clavicula) were linked with certain 
scientific and mystic (alchemical) theories which sub- 
sisted without interruption in the trade notes of the 
arts and crafts from the Roman Empire through the 
Carlovingian period and onwards; he claims that 
the Arabs had learned their chemical knowledge from 
the Greeks, but that a good deal was inherited by the 
Byzantines without Arab intervention ; he finds cor- 
respondence between these three MSS. and alchemical 
Latin MSS. of the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris 
(as 6514, fol. 44-52), and continues the series with 
the De Artibus Romanorum of Eraclius, the Schedula 
Diversarum Artium of Theophilus, the Liber Diver- 
sarum Artium (Bibliotheque de l'e*cole de medecine, 
Montpellier), the treatises published by Mrs. Merrifield 
in Ancient Practice of Painting and so through the 
later secreti and treatises of the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries to the workshop recipes of our own 
time such as, in France, the Manuels Rorets. 

The Schedula of Theophilus belongs to the same 

1 Edited by Sir T. Phillips, and communicated by him to the Society 
of Antiquaries. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxvii 

technical school as the earlier documents we have 
been considering. jEsthetically its art is Byzantine. 
Thus it links the later MSS. which closely resemble 
it to that Byzantine art of which it is a product, and 
which itself was founded on the classical tradition. 
These later documents are the Hermeneia, which is 
the old Greek Church manual from Mount Athos, 
and Cennino's Trattato, the three having so strong 
a family likeness that they cannot but have one 
and the same pedigree. 

The -author of the Schedula, the monk Theophilus, 
was himself clearly a worker in metal, and on this 
subject evidently gives his own experiences with first- 
hand freshness and originality, but he collected a 
good deal of traditional information about painting 
and other arts such as glass staining and painting, 
perhaps copied from other writings. It is practically 
certain that he copied from Eraclius. He probably 
lived at the end of the eleventh or the beginning 
of the twelfth century, and was a German. Greece 
(that is, probably some Byzantine manual which 
he copied as he copied Eraclius) by this time 
meaning Byzantium, was his mistress in painting. 
"Should you carefully peruse this, you will find 
out whatever Greece possesses in kinds and mix- 
tures of various colours ; whatever Tuscany knows of 
in mosaic work, or in variety of enamel ; whatever 
Arabia shows forth in work of fusion, ductility, 
or chasing; whatever Italy ornaments with gold, 
in diversity of vases and sculpture, of gems or 
ivory; whatever France loves in a costly variety of 

xxviii Cennino Cennini 

windows ; whatever industrious Germany approves in 
work of gold, silver, copper, and iron, of woods and 
of stones." The book begins with the composition 
of flesh tints and the method of painting faces like 
Cennino's directions in chapters 67 and 147. No 
tempera is given, but as white lead is the white pig- 
ment, fresco is not primarily intended. A distinction 
is made between painting on lime on walls and painting 
1 in laqueari/ which generally means panelled ceilings, 
but may possibly have come to mean plaster of 
Paris or chalk and size stucco. The wall-painting is 
described as being done on a well-wetted wall, the 
colours being made adherent by being mixed with 
lime hardly true fresco. Lazur (blue) was painted 
with yolk of egg abundantly mixed with water 
(otherwise yolk of egg 1 is not mentioned) over a 
ground of 'veneda' made of black and lime also 
laid under green; while red earth was to be laid 
under cinnabar. Pliny speaks of giving an undercoat 
of syricum (probably red lead) to minium (vermilion 
and the cinnabar of Theophilus) to save expense ; 
and in his account of chrysocolla (probably powdered 
malachite) he says, "They underlay the sandy sort 
however with atramentum (black) before they lay 
it on, and with paraetonium. These are tenacious 
of it and soft to the colour. Paraetonium because it 
is by nature unctuous, and very tenacious on account 
of its fineness. It is coated with atramentum that the 
whiteness of the paraetonium may not give pallor to 
the chrysocolla." Wax is not mentioned at all in 

1 Except in the later addenda, Eng. ed. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxix 

the Schedula. Instead of it linseed oil, or preferably 
gum, as it dries quicker, are to be used for pictures 
on panels. Gilding is similar to Pliny's, on a size 
and gypsurn or chalk ground, and white of egg 
beaten and clarified is the mordant. Oil-paint with- 
out wax is here used for painting wood-work. The 
varnishes are simpler than those in the Lucca MS., 
only one resin being used for each varnish, one 
being probably amber, the other sandarach. For 
books most colours were tempered with gum; 
minium, ceruse, and carmine, with white of egg. 
In the third book, the preparation of f;sh-glue is 
given, Pliny's ichthyocolla, made from the bladder of 
the sturgeon or huso ; its use is for gold-work, and 
perhaps as an alternative to gum for book-painting. 

A group of MSS. of French origin belong to the 
same school as the Schedula ; these are the third book 
of Eraclius, 1 the book of Peter St. Audemar, the 
Sloane MS. (B.M., 1754), and some part of Le Begue's 
MSS., 2 especially the French recipes. The two first 
seem to date from about the turn of the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries, or earlier. They embody a good 
deal of the material of Theophilus, often in the same 
words, either showing that his work was a widely 
used authority, or that both writers compiled from a 
written or oral technical tradition practically the same 
in all monasteries where painting was carried on. 
Something of this sort is the more likely supposition. 

1 The first two books of Eraclius are very early and are quoted by 
Theophilus. Otherwise they cannot be dated. They may embody a 
bit of somewhat local Italian art tradition. 

2 Bibliotheque Nationale. Pub. "Ancient Pract. Paint." 

xxx Cennino Cennini 

It is clear that the use of oil and varnish was general, 
but. there is nothing in any of these MSS. to prove, as 
we find in the Schedula, that oil was used for pictures. 
Both in St. Audemar (c. 180) and Le Begue's French 
recipes (315-317, 344-345) we find a reminiscence of 
the flesh-painting scheme of the Schedula, with similar 
names for the compound tints ; and, departing very 
far from the original, in the Bolognese MS. (190-192). 
The following short paragraph from Eraclius (iii. 28) 
sums up the usual vehicles other than oil of the school 
and period. " Of the general practice in grinding all 
colours You must know, however, that all colours 
may be ground with clear water, if they are allowed to 
dry and then with white of egg, or oil, or gum-water, 
or wine, or cervisia (beer), when they are mixed or 
tempered." When we come to the individual recipes, 
we find that yolk of egg was used to a limited extent 
as a preferable medium for some colours (vermilion, 
orpiment), or added to the white of egg in small propor- 
tions. It made the colours flow better from the pen. 

Among Le Bgue's French recipes 1 is one of 
very considerable interest, being a water for dis- 
tempering all colours, made by combining an emulsion 
of saponified wax with fish-glue and mastic (for 
recipe, see p. xxxiv). The Hermeneia contains a recipe 
for combining wax saponified in the same way with 
potash water, to make a preparation to give gloss to 
the painting. These wax -containing temperas are 

1 Of this part of the MS. it can only be said that its contents are 
not of a later period than the beginning of the fifteenth century. Le 
Begue wrote out the various material he had collected in 1437. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxxi 

analogous to the present process called Milanese 
stucco, 1 and through this are perhaps continuous 
with the Kausis or wax-polishing of the ancients, and 
may show that wax was used by them in painting on 
walls, but differently from the process employed on 
panels. This may explain the meaning of a passage 
in Pliny, "Waxes are dyed with these same colours 
for those pictures which are to be burnt in, which 
is another way from that used on walls, but customary 
for ships of war" (the latter were painted with wax 
combined with wood tar). 2 Pliny describes a prepara- 
tion of wax with alkali. It is said that saponified wax 
makes a remarkably insoluble compound with fresh 
lime plaster, but, used in such small quantities as are 
directed in the recipes of the Hermeneia and the Le 
Begue MS., would not easily be detected by analysis. 

The Henneneia, or Guide to Painting, of Mount Athos 
was found in the year 1839, by Didron, in use by the 
painter monks of that strange town of monasteries. 
He succeeded in getting a copy made, and had it 
translated into French. He gave his Greek copy to 
the King of Bavaria. A German translation has also 
been published, and a Greek edition. It professes to 
be the teaching of a painter, Manuel Panselinos, of 
Thessalonica, 8 whom Didron calls the Giotto of the 

1 Beitrdge, Parts I. and II. ; also Henry and Cros, L ' Entaustique. 

2 Cerse tinguntur iisdem his coloribus ad eas pictures quae inuruntur 
alieno parietibus genere, sed claSsibus familiari, xxxv. 49. 

8 That is, Salonica, formerly a great school of painting at the gate of 
Mount Athos, the monastery town, which was founded about the 
beginning of the seventh century, but the date is uncertain. The 
family of the Comneni bestowed great privileges on the existing monas- 
teries, and added to their number (1056-1204). 

xxxii Cennino Cennini 

school, who lived in the eleventh or twelfth century. 
The Hermeneia consists of two parts, one technical; 
the other describes the treatment of the subjects to 
be depicted. It was written by a monk Dionysios, and 
seems to embody an older work, as there are two 
prefaces, one composed by Dionysios and another. 
It is not known when he lived. At the time of 
Didron's visit, there were four ateliers on Mount 
Athos, each having its own copy, somewhat varying 
from one another. The first he tried to buy had 
marginal notes by later hands. The evidently different 
dates of the teaching of the Guide are accounted for 
by the successive incorporation into the text of such 
notes whenever a new copy was made. There is 
some evidence that the original of Didron's MS. was 
written between 1500 and I63O. 1 One wants to 
linger over this weird survival of the old-world 
bottega with masters and journeymen and apprentices, 
where the book of the art was laid open in the 
midst, and the pupils read from it in turns in a 
loud voice, as the others painted in obedience to its 
directions. 2 

In Russia two similar but not identical books exist, 
called the Podlinnik and the Stoglaff '; the latter 
claims to be influenced by the Athos school, which it 

states to have been 'founded by Manuel Panselinos, 


1 Beitrdgc, III. 67-71. 

* Tfeis account of Didron's visit has not been published at length in 
English. There are extracts from it in the notes to the English edition 
of Theophilus. See Iconographie Chrttienne. Later visitors say the 
school is in the last stages of decadence. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxxiii 

a painter of the eleventh century.' Neither of these 
are accessible. 

In the Hermeneia 1 the whole work of the elabo- 
rately decorated chancel screens is unfolded in great 
detail ; that is, the grounding with gesso and size for 
the gilding and pictures, and their preparation ; baking 
and slaking the gesso, and boiling the size from skins. 
Skins of oxen being used for glue, and especially the 
ears, reminds us of Pliny. The method, however, of 
gilding with tallow in the bole preparation, the -leaf 
applied with spirits of wine, and the plaster priming 
containing linseed oil and soap, is different from any 
other old gilding directions, but closely resembles some 
modern methods. In any colouring that has to be 
done behind the gilded fretwork as a relief to it, 
egg is to be used to mix the colours. Didron trans- 
lates the Greek word by egg simply, Schafer always 
by white of egg. Berger is of opinion that by avyov, 
used alone, the whole egg is intended, both here and 
for painting on stretched and primed canvas, and that 
yolk of egg alone is not intended or mentioned at 
all. White of egg forms part of the mordant for 
burnished gold, and here it is specified. The Greek 
word which would properly designate yolk of egg is 
not used. No tempera of any kind is mentioned 
for painting the ' numerous and large pictures ' forming 
part of the choir screen, but as 'egg* is the vehicle 

1 It is unfortunate that the German and French translations were 
both made by men who understood nothing of painters' materials, and are 
on these points inexact, but the Greek edition was collated by Berger 
for his Beitrage, and he has been able to explain some of the obscurities 
of the earlier French and German editions of Didron and Schafer. 

xxxiv Cennino Cennini 

used in painting on primed canvas, on mother-of- 
pearl and behind the carving on screens (size being 
here an alternative), and in the 'Moscovite' method 
of blue and gilding only, we may consider that it 
was equally used on panels. 

It is in the colouring for flesh of Panselinos that 
we notice the affinity to Theophilus; and here it is 
worthy of notice that white lead is the white used, 
as in the directions for flesh-painting in the Schedula. 
White lead is the only white pigment mentioned in 
the Lucca MS. 

A comparison should be made between the extracts 
from the flesh-painting of the Schedula and the Her- 
meneia with each other (see p. xxxv), and with the fresco 
chapters of the Trattato of Cennino. The recipe for 
a solution of wax capable of receiving a polish which 
may explain the gloss of the Pisan pictures has already 
been mentioned. Equal quantities of wax, potash lye, 
and size are melted together on the fire. The colours 
are painted with this, which can be polished so bright 
that it is useless to apply varnish. What exactly is 
meant by the equal quantities is difficult to say. 
Le B&gue's somewhat similar compound 1 is: i Ib. 
lime, 12 Ibs. ashes, boiled well in water; take 4 Ibs. 
of the strained water, ij oz. fish-glue, 2 oz. wax, 
l oz. mastic, all boiled together. 'With this water 
you may distemper all kinds ofcolours.' 

The oil-painting of the MS. evinces greater familiarity 
with the technique than Cennino possessed, and is a 
late addition. The passage directing spirits of wine to 

1 Ancient Practice of Painting^ I. 307. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxxv 

be used in varnish-making is not likely to be of the 
date of the earliest part. Most of the pigments have 
Eastern names. 

The vehicle for icon-painting in Russia, according 
to the Podlinnik, is egg-yolk, with a final coating of 
boiled oil, this being the cause of the darkening of 
the old pictures. Egg was used instead of oil, which 
was considered to be a production of the hand of 
man, and unworthy of taking part in representing 
the Divinity. 1 The use of yolk of egg to paint the 
colours in Abyssinian MSS. w ich Curzon saw and 
tells of in his " Monasteries 01 the Levant," p. 107 
(a very amusing account), may have been inherited 
from the ancient Egyptians. 

The very last echo of Greece is in the Strasburg 
MS. (early fifteenth-century), wherein the writer claims 
to have taught honestly to the attentive how to paint 
according to Greek customs with two waters, i.e. dis- 
solved gum and prepared white of egg, meaning evi- 
dently by Greek the ' old-fashioned ' painting used in 
MSS.; and he then proceeds to describe the more 
modern oil-painting. 

Synopsis of Flesh-colouring from the " Schedula " and 
the " Hermeneia? for comparison with the direc- 
tions in Cennino's Fresco and Tempera chapters 
on this subject. 

Schedula i. The colour which is called flesh-colour, 
with which the face and the nude are painted, is thus 

1 Iconographie Sacree en Russie (Revue Archiologique^ vol. vii.). 

xxxvi Cennino Cennini 

composed " Grind it (massicot), and mix it with white 
ceruse and cinnabar until it is made like flesh. The 
mixture of these colours may be made according to 
your will; so that if you wish to have red-coloured 
faces, add more cinnabar; but if clear complexions, 
put more white ; if pallid, however, add a little prasi- 
nus which prasinus is a preparation having the 
appearance of a green colour with black. . . . When 
you have mixed the flesh-colour, and have filled in the 
faces and the nude with it, mix with it some prasinus 
and the red which is burnt from ochre, 1 and a little 
cinnabar, and prepare the pose with which you will 
mark the eyebrows and eyes, the nostrils and mouth, 
the chin and the hollows round the nostrils and 
the temples; the wrinkles in the forehead and neck, 
and the rounding of the face; the beards of young 
men, and the articulations of the hands and feet, 
and all members which are made apparent in the 

Then follow similar details for the first rose-colour, 
flesh-colour, cinnabar, and minium ; the first lumina 
or high lights of flesh-colour and ceruse ; the veneda 
or black, with a little white for the pupils of the eyes ; 
the second pose being the first darkened with more 
prasinus and red, "so that it may become a shadow 
of the former colour, and fill up the middle space be- 
tween the eyebrow and the eyes, and in the middle 
under the eyes, and about the nose, and between the 
mouth .and the chin, the down or slight beard of 

1 Pliny : ' Without the use of usta shadows cannot be made ; ' usta 
being properly yellow ochre burnt. 

Pedigree of the 'Trattato' xxxvii 

youths," &c. ; then the second rose colour for height- 
ening the first, and a brighter ' lumina ' if necessary. 
Directions follow for the hair and beards of youths 
and old men. 

" Hermeneia " (arranged to correspond in order with 
the " Schedula"). 

To make the flesh-colour of Panselinos: "Take 
Venice white (i.e. ceruse, or white lead) or good 
French white, Venice ochre, and cinnabar ; " or, " Take 
white and reddish-yellow ochre." On the preparation 
of the Proplasmos of Panselinos: "Take white lead, 
ochre, green and black, grind all this together on 
marble. Collect the mixture in a pot, then ground 
the places where you will paint flesh." On the pre- 
paration of the glykasmos (half shadow or softening) : 
" Take two parts of flesh-colour, and one part, or a little 
less, of proplasmos ; unite them in a shell, and you will 
have a glykasmos for the flesh. . . . When you have 
put on the proplasmos and drawn in a face or another 
part, you will model the flesh with the glykasmos, of 
which we- have given the recipe, and you will thin it at 
the edges so that it joins well with the proplasmos. You 
will add flesh-colour on the prominent parts, thinning 
it gradually like the glykasmos. In old men you will 
make the wrinkles, and in young people the angles 
of the eyes. Then you will use white with precau- 
tion, mixing the touches of white and those of flesh- 
colour first lightly, then more forcibly. This is how 
flesh-painting is modelled, according to Panselinos." 

xxxvlii Cennino Cennini 

..." For the lips of saints mix white and cinnabar, 
for mouths only use cinnabar," &c. Corresponding 
to the second pose of the Schedula we find: "Take 
umber and bole; mix them on the marble; use this 
to draw the eyes, the mouth, &c. In the darker parts 
you will give shade with umber only. Add black 
for the pupils and nostrils." Here also directions 
for hair and beards are given, closely resembling 
those of the Schedula and Trattato. 





Made and composed by Cennino da Colle, in the reverence of 
God, and of the Virgin Mary, and of St. Eustachius, 
and of St. Francis, and of St. John the Baptist, and of 
St. Anthony of Padua, and generally of all the saints 
of God, and in the reverence of Giotto, of Taddeo, and 
of Agnolo the master of Cennino, and for the utility 
and good and advantage of those who would attain 
perfection in the art. 


IN the beginning, when the omnipotent God created 
the heaven and the earth, above all living creatures 
and plants for food, he created man and woman after 
his own image, endowing them with all virtues. 
Afterwards came misfortune, through the envy of 
Lucifer towards Adam ; who with malice and subtlety 

1 This chapter is an expression of the mania for classification in the 
middle ages which produced such works as the Legenda Aurea, the 
Speculum Universal^, and numerous encyclopaedias. A sketch of the 
kind of classification adopted, and the connection with the arts, is given 
in Didron's " Christian Iconography," ed. Bonn. 


4 The Book of the Art 

induced him to sin against the commandment of God, 
that is, first Eve, and then Eve deceived Adam ; and 
God was angered against Adam, and caused him 
and his companion to be driven by an angel out of 
Paradise, saying to them, "Because you have dis- 
obeyed the commandment which God gave to you, 
by your labour and exertions shall you support your- 
selves." Then Adam, knowing the sin he had com- 
mitted, and being nobly endowed by God, as the 
root and origin and father of us all, discovered by his 
wisdom that it was necessary to find a way to live 
by his own manual exertions, and thus he began by 
digging and Eve by spinning. Afterwards he carried 
on many necessary arts, different each from the other, 
and each more scientific than the other; for they 
could not be all equally so. Now, the most worthy 
is Science; after which comes an art derived from 
science and dependent on the operations of the hand, 
and this is called Painting, for which we must be 
endowed with both imagination (fantasia) and skill 
in the hand, to discover unseen things concealed 
beneath the obscurity of natural objects, and to arrest 
. them with the hand, presenting to the sight that 
which did not before appear *to exist. And well 
does it deserve to be placed in the rank next to 
science, and to be crowned by Poetry: and for this 
reason, that the poet, by the help of science, be- 
comes worthy, and free, and able to compose and 

of Cennino Cennini 5 

bind together, or not, at pleasure. So to the painter 
liberty is given to compose a figure, either upright 
or sitting, or half man, half horse, as he pleases, 
according to his fancy. Therefore, whether through 
great reverence or love, let all those persons who 
feel in themselves any kind or manner of know- 
ledge, or power to help and adorn these principal 
sciences with some jewel, put themselves forward 
without any bashfulness, offering to the above-named 
sciences this little knowledge which God has given 

A humble working member then of the art of 
painting, I, Cennino, borq, of Drea Cennino of the 
Colle de Valdelsa, was instructed in these arts for 
twelve years by Agnolo, son of Taddeo of Florence, 
my master, who learned the art from Taddeo his 
father, who was the godson of Giotto, and was his 
disciple for twenty-four years. This Giotto changed 
the art of painting from the Greek to the Latin 
(manner), and brought it to the modern (style) ; and 
he possessed more perfect art than ever any one else 
had had. In order to assist all those who would 
approach this art, I shall take note of all that was 
taught me by my master Agnolo, and of that which I 
have proved with my own hand; invoking first the 
high omnipotent God, that is to say, the Father, 
Son, and Holy Spirit ; secondly, that most delightful 
advocate of all sinners the Virgin Mary, and St. Luke 

6 The Book of the Art 

the Evangelist, the first Christian painter, and my 
advocate St. Eustachius, and generally all the saints, 
male and female, of Paradise. 

CHAP. 2.- How some persons study the arts from 
nobleness of mind, and some for gain. 

It is the impulse of a noble mind which moves 
some towards this art, pleasing to them through 
their natural love. The intellect delights in inven- 
tion; and nature alone draws them, without any 
guidance from a master, through nobleness of mind ; 
and thus delighting themselves, they next wish to 
find a master, and with him they place themselves in 
love of obedience, being in servitude that they may 
carry their art to perfectipn. There are some who 
follow the arts from poverty and necessity, also for 
gain, and for love of the art ; but those who pursue 
them from love of the art and true nobleness of mind 
are to be commended above all others. 

CHAP. 3. What to do in the beginning of the pursuit 
of art. 

Now then, you of noble mind, who are lovers of 
this good, come at once to art and adorn yourselves 
with this vesture, namely, love, reverence, obedience, 
and perseverance. And as soon as thou canst, begin 

of Cennino Cennini 7 

to put thyself under the guidance of the master to 
learn, and delay as long as thou mayest thy parting 
from the master. 

CHAP. 4. How the rule shows into what parts and 
members the arts are divided. 

The foundation of the art and the beginning of all 
these labours of the hand is drawing and colouring. 
To these two parts these things are necessary; 
namely, to know J how to grind colours ; to use glue ; 
to fasten the cloth on the panel; to prime with gesso, 
to scrape and smooth the gesso ; to make relievos in 
gesso ; to put on bole ; to gild ; to burnish ; to temper 
colours ; to lay on ground colours ; to trace by dusting 
powder 2 ; to engrave by lines and by stamps (?) ; to 
carve; to colour; to adorn and to varnish pictures. 
To paint on walls it is necessary to wet them; to 
cover them with mortar ; to embellish them ; to polish 
(smooth) them ; to design, to colour in fresco and finish 
in secco ; to temper the colours ; adorn 8 and retouch. 

1 Sapere tritare, o ver macinare, incollare, impannare, ingessare, 
e radere i gessi e pulirli, rilevare di gesso, mettere di bolo, mettere 
d'oro, brunire, temperare, campeggiare, spolverare, grattare, granare 
overo camusciare, ritagliare, colorire, adornare e inverniciare in tavola, 
overo ancona. Lavorare in muro, bisogna bagnare, smaltare, fregiare, 
pulire, disegnare, colorire in fresco, trarre a fino in secco, temperare, 
adornare, finire in muro. Carausciare may mean the same as granare 
but on a bigger scale* Grattare may mean engraving lines in the gold 
or scraping through the paint to the gilding beneath. 

* Through pricked patterns. 

* Probably means adding the gold and ultramarine. 

8 The Book of the Art 

And this is the rule of the above-named grades, as 
to which, with that little knowledge which I have 
learned, I will explain step by step. 

CHAP. 5. In what manner to begin drawing on a 
small panel } and how to prepare it. 

As has been said, it is necessary that you should 
have the habit of beginning to draw correctly. 1 

First, have a small panel of boxwood a hand length 
wide each way, well smoothed and clean, that is to 
say, washed with clean water, rubbed and polished 
with sepia (bone of the cuttle-fish), which the gold- 
smith uses for marking. When this panel is quite 
dry, take a sufficient quantity of bones well ground 
for two hours, and the finer they are ground, the 
better they will be. Then collect the powder, and 
put it into dry paper; and when you want to prime 
the panel, take less than half the size of a bean of 
this bone-dust or less, mix it up with saliva, and 
before it is dry spread it with the finger over the 
surface of the panel, and before it dries, hold the 
panel in the left hand, and with the tip of the fore- 
finger of the right hand, beat upon the panel until 
you see that it is quite dry, and that the bone-dust 
is spread all over it equally. 

1 Cennino sometimes uses the second person plural, but more 
frequently the singular. This sounds awkward in English, and hence- 
forth I shall use the pronoun you and not thou. 

of Cennino Cennini 9 

CHAP. 6. How drawing can be done on several kinds 
of panels. 

A tablet of old figwood is suitable ; J also certain 
tablets used by merchants which are made of parch- 
ment prepared with gesso coated with white lead 
and oil, using the bone-dust as I have said. 

CHAP. 7. What kind of bones are proper for priming 

You must now know what bones are proper. For 
this purpose take the bones of the thighs and wings 
of fowls or capons ; and the older they are the better. 
When you find them under the table, put them in 
the fire, and when you see they are become whiter 
than ashes, take them out, and grind them well on 
a porphyry slab, and use it as I say above. 

CHAP. 8. In^what manner you should begin to draw 
with a style, and with what light 

The bones also of the leg and shoulder of mutton 
are good, burnt as before directed. Then take a style 
of silver or brass, or anything else provided the point 
is silver, sufficiently fine (sharp) and polished and 
good. Then, to acquire command of hand in using 
the style, begin to draw with it from a copy as freely 

1 buona la tavoletta del figaro ben vecchio. 

io The Book of the Art 

as you can, and so lightly that you can scarcely see 
what you have begun to do, deepening your strokes 
little by little, and going over them repeatedly to make 
the shadows. Where you would make it darkest go 
over it many times; and, on the contrary, make but 
few touches on the lights. And you must be guided 
by the light of the sun, and the light of your eye, 
and your hand; and without these three things you 
can do nothing properly. Contrive always when 
you draw that the light is softened, and that the 
sun strikes on your left hand; and in this manner 
you should begin to practise drawing only a short 
time every day, that you may not become vexed or 

CHAP. 9. How to arrange the light, and give chiaro- 
scuro and proper relief to your figures. 

If by accident it should happen, that when drawing 
or copying in chapels, or colouring in other unfavour- 
able places, you cannot have the light on your left 
hand, or in your usual manner, be sure to give relief 
to your figures or design according to the arrangement 
of the windows which you find in these places, which 
have to give you light, and thus accommodating your- 
self to the light on which side soever it may be, give 
the proper lights and shadows. Or if it were to happen 
that the light should enter or shine right opposite or 

of Gennino Cennini n 

full in your face, make your lights and shades accord- 
ingly ; or if the light should be favourable at a window 
larger than the others in the above-mentioned places, 
adopt always the best light, and try to understand and 
follow it carefully, because, wanting this, your work 
would be without relief, a foolish thing, without 

CHAP. 10. The manner and process of drawing on 
parchment and on paper, and how to shade with 

Let us return to our subject. You may also draw 
upon parchment, and paper made of cotton. On 
parchment you may draw or sketch with the above- 
named style, first rubbing and spreading some of the 
powdered bone-dust over the parchment, scattered 
thinly and brushed off with a hare's foot, and powdered 
like writing-powder or resin. 1 

If you like, when you have completed your drawing 
with the style, in order to make it clearer, you may 
fix the outlines and necessary touches with ink, then 
shade the folds with water-colour made of ink, that is, 
water about as much as a nutshell will hold, into 
which are put two drops of ink, and shade with a 
brush made of tails of the minever, blunt and nearly 
always dry. 

1 i.e. pounce, or powdered resin. 

12 The Book of the Art 

And then, according to the shades required, you must 
blacken the water with a few drops of ink. In the 
same manner you may shade with colours and clothlet 
tints l (pezzuole), such as miniature painters use ; mix 
your colours with gum, or with 'the clear or albumen 
of an egg well beaten and liquefied. 

CHAP. ii. How to draw with a leaden style. 

It is possible also to draw on parchment without 
bone-dust with a style of lead; that is, with two parts 
of lead, and one of tin, well beaten with a hammer. 

CHAP. 12. How, when drawing with a leaden style, 
an error may be corrected. 

You may draw on paper also with the above- 
mentioned leaden style,' either with or without bone- 
dust; and if at any time you make an error, or you 
wish to remove any marks made by the leaden style, 
take a little crumb of bread, rub it over the paper, and 
efface whatever you please. And on this kind of 
paper, in the same manner, you may shade with ink, 
or colours, or clothlet tints (pezzuole), with the before- 
mentioned vehicle. 

1 Bits of rag were stained with transparent pigments to be extracted 
in water as required. 

of Cennino Cennini 13 

CHAP. 13. How drawing with the pen should be 

When you have practised drawing in this manner 
one year, either more or less, according to the pleasure 
you take in it, you may sometimes draw on paper with 
a fine-pointed pen. Draw lightly, working up your 
lights and your half-lights and your shades gradually, 
retouching many lines with your pen. And if you 
would have your drawing more highly finished use a 
little water-colour, as before directed, with a blunt- 
pointed minever brush. Do you know what will be 
the consequence of this practice of drawing with the 
pen ? It will make you expert, skilful, and capable of 
making original designs. 

CHAP. 14. How to make a pen for the purpose of 

If you would know how to make a pen of a goose- 
quill, take a firm quill, place it on the two fingers of 
the left hand, the under side of the quill upwards ; 
take a good sharp penknife, and cut away about the 
width of a finger along the length of the quill, and cut 
it drawing the penknife towards you, taking care that 
the cut should be even and in the middle of the pen. 
Then replace the penknife on one of the edges of this 
pen, that is, on the left side which is opposite to you, 

14 The Book of the Art 

and pare downwards, making it thinner towards the 
point, and cut round the other edge of the pen and 
bring it to the same point. Turn the pen over, put it 
on the thumb-nail of the left hand, and gently scrape 
and nib the point, and make it either broad or fine as 
you require for drawing of writing. 

CHAP. 15. How to draw on tinted paper. 

In order to proceed gradually and begin at the very 
beginning, and as it were at the foundation and thres- 
hold of colouring, you must learn another method of 
drawing besides those of which we have previously 
been speaking; and this is called, drawing on tinted 
paper either on parchment or paper. They are 
called tinted because the whole surface of either is 
coloured with the same tint. The tints may be either 
red, purple, green, azure, grey, flesh-colour, or any 
colour you please ; they all require the same temper- 
ing and grinding, and may all be drawn upon in the 
same manner. It is true that green tints are the 
most beautiful and most frequently used, both for 
drawing on with shade - colours, and with white. 
Although I shall hereafter treat* of grinding the colours, 
of their several natures and of the medium (tempera) 
they require, I must give you in short a quick method 
for your use in drawing and for tinting the paper. 

of Cennino Cennini 15 

CHAP. 1 6. How a green tint is made in drawing- 
paper^ and how it is tempered. 

When you wish to tint goat-parchment or sheets of 
paper green, take about the size of half a walnut of 
verde-terra, and half the quantity of ochre; of stiff 
white lead half the quantity of the ochre, and about 
the size of a bean of bone-dust which I have taught 
you previously to prepare, and half the size of a 
bean of vermilion, and grind all these well together 
on a porphyry slab, with water from a well, or spring, 
or river : grind them as long as you can bear grinding 
you cannot grind them too much; and the more 
you grind them, the more perfect the tint will be. 
Then temper these ingredients with glue (colld) of the 
following kind and strength: Take a piece of glue 
as sold by the apothecaries (not fish-glue), and put 
it in a pipkin to soak, in as much clean water as can 
be contained in two common drinking-glasses, for the 
space of six hours ; then put the pipkin on a moderate 
fire, and skim it when it boils. When it has boiled 
a short time, and the glue is perfectly dissolved, strain 
it twice; then take a painter's vase, large enough to 
contain the colours you have ground, and add the 
glue to them till the colours flow well from the brush ; 
then take the paper which you wish to tint, and with 
a hog's-bristle brush, rather large and soft, spread 
the colour immediately all over, with a light touch, 

16 The Book of the Art 

and the brush almost half-dry, first in one direction 
and then in the other, and so go over it four or five 
times until you see that the paper is tinted equally, 
with a space of time between each coat, that each one 
may dry, and if it gets dry or leathery with your 
tinting, it is a proof that the tempera is too strong ; 
therefore when you have gone over it the first time 
you must remedy this. How? Add clean tepid 
water to it. When finished and quite dry, take a 
knife and rub it lightly over the paper, to remove any 
little grain of roughness. 

CHAP. 17. How to tint parchment (carta di cavrettd) 
and to burnish it. 

To draw on parchment, you must first soak it in 
spring or well water till it become soft. Fasten it 
tight with small nails over a plank, as you would 
stretch the parchment over a drum, and tint it as 
before directed. Should it happen that the parchment 
or paper is not smooth enough for the purpose, put 
it on a plank of walnut-wood, or on an even and well- 
polished stone. Then put a very clean sheet of paper 
upon that which you have tinted ; and with the stone 
with which you burnish gold, burnish it with good 
strength of hand, and by this means it will become 
very soft and smooth. True it is that some persons 
like to burnish on the tinted parchment itself, so that 

of Cennino Cennini 17 

the burnishing stone should touch its surface and 
give it a little lustre: do which you please, but the 
first mode is the best. The reason is, that the lustre 
given to the tinted paper, by rubbing it with the 
burnishing stone, takes away the lustre of the style 
in drawing: and besides, the water-colour, when 
applied, does not look so soft and clear as when the 
first process is used. Sit nihil hominibus (sed nihil 
ominus in the MS.) ; do as you please. 

CHAP. 1 8. How to tint paper of a morella or purple 

Now learn how to make these tints. To tint paper 
morella or purple colour, take, for the number of 
sheets I have mentioned above, 1 half an ounce of 
white lead and the size of a bean of lapis amatisto, 2 
and grind them as well together as you can; they 
cannot be spoilt by too much grinding, but on the 
contrary will be improved. Temper the colour in the 
usual manner. 

CHAP. 19. How to tint paper with indigo. 

For the above mentioned number of sheets take 
half an ounce of white lead (biacca\ and the size of 

1 Cennino has omitted to mention any number. 

2 Red haematite, perhaps, resembling our Indian red. 


i8 The Book of the Art 

two beans of indigo and grind them well together; 
much grinding will not spoil the tint. Temper and 
use in the same manner as before. 

CHAP. 20. To tint paper a reddish or peach-colour. 

If you would tint paper of a reddish colour for the 
same number of sheets, take half an ounce of verde- 
terra, the size of two beans of stiff white lead, and 
the size of a bean of light sinopia (red earth), grind 
them in the usual manner, and temper with your size 
or tempera. 

CHAP. 21. To tint paper of a flesh-colour. 

To make a good flesh-coloured tint, take for the 
same number of sheets of paper, half an ounce of 
white lead, and less than the size of a bean of 
vermilion. These must be all ground together. 
Temper in the usual manner as above. 

CHAP. 22. To make grey tints on paper. 

Grey tints are made in* this manner. Take a 
quarter (? of an ounce) of coarse white lead, the 
size of a bean of light ochre, less than half the 
size of a bean of black ; grind these well together 

of Cennino Cennini 19 

in the usual manner. Temper as I have before 
directed, putting always to each the size of a bean 
at least of burnt bones, and these directions are 
sufficient for the different sorts of tinted paper. 

CHAP, 23. /;/ what manner you may take the outline 
of a beautiful face or design on transparent paper 
(carta lucida). 1 

You must be told that there is still another kind 
of paper, called transparent, which may be very 
useful to you in copying a head, or a figure, or a 
half-length figure, from the work of a great master. 
If you wish to take a correct outline from paper or 
panel or wall for yourself, put the transparent paper 
over the figure or design, fastening it lightly at the 
four corners with a piece of red or green wax. The 
figure or design will be immediately visible through 
the transparent paper, so that you can see it clearly. 
Then take either a pen with a fine nib, or a small 
minever brush, and with ink trace the outlines 
and extremities of the design under it. Then taking 
away the paper, you may touch the lights and 
relievos as you please. 

1 In the Hernuneia, very detailed directions are given for making 
tracings from pictures. 

20 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 24. The first mode of making transparent 

,If you need this transparent paper, and cannot 
find it ready made, make it in the following manner. 
Take a skin of parchment, give it to a parchment- 
maker and make him scrape it till it scarcely holds 
together, and let him take care to scrape it evenly. 
It is of itself transparent. If you would have it 
more clear, take linseed oil, very clear and fine, 
and rub it over with a piece of cotton dipped in 
this oil; let it dry for the space of several days, 
and it will be perfect and good. 

CHAP. 25. The second mode of making transparent 
paper with glue. 

If you would prepare this transparent Ff a P er * n 
another manner, provide a slab of marble or porphyry 
well polished. Then take fish-glue and pieces of 
glue (colla di spiccht) sold by the apothecaries, put 
them to soften in clean water ; and to six pieces 
put a porringer full of clean water. Then make it 
boil; and when boiled, strain, it two or three times. 
Then take some of this dissolved and strained glue, 
and when cool, with a brush, as in tinting paper, 
pass all over the slab, which must be clean. The 
stone should be first greased with olive oil ; and 

of Cennino Cennini 21 

when the glue upon the slab is dry, take the point 
of a knife and begin somewhere to loosen the glue 
from the slab, so that you can with your hand take 
off this skin or paper you have made in this way. 
With great care you may detach this glue safely 
from the stone like a sheet of paper. Or, before 
you detach this skin of glue from the stone, take 
linseed oil boiled in the manner I shall direct when 
speaking of mordants, and with a soft brush go 
once over it; let it dry for two or three days, and 
it will be very transparent. 

CHAP. 26. How transparent paper (carta ludda) may 
be made of cotton paper. 

This same carta lucida of which we have spoken, 
may also be made of cotton paper. The paper 
must be thin, even, and very white; oil it with 
linseed oil as before directed. It will be trans- 
parent and is good. 

CHAP. 27. How you should endeavour to copy and 
design, following a master as much as you can. 

It is now needful that you should advance further 
in order to follow the path of this science. You have 
made tinted paper. It is necessary for you to keep 
to this method. Having practised drawing a suffi- 
cient time on tablets as I have before directed, 

22 The Book of the Art 

always take pains in drawing the best subjects which 
you can find, done by the hand of great masters. 
If you live in a place where there are many good 
masters, so much the better for you. But I counsel 
you always to choose the best and most famous; 
and daily following him, it will be against nature 
if you do not come close to his manner and style; 
for if you copy to-day from this master and to- 
morrow from the other, you will not acquire the 
manner of either; and you will necessarily become 
fantastic, for each manner will distract your mind. 
You will study this manner to-day and that to- 
morrow, and you will get neither perfectly; but 
if you continually follow the method of one master, 
your intellect must be very dull indeed if it gets no 
food. And it will happen that if nature has bestowed 
on you any invention, you will acquire a manner of 
your own, which cannot be other than good, because 
your hand and your understanding being always 
accustomed to gather the flowers, would scarcely 
know how to take thorns. 

CHAP. 28. How, more than fr^om the masters, you 
should draw continually from nature. 

Remember that the most perfect guide that you 
can have and the best course (helm), is the triumphal 
gateway of drawing from nature: it is before all 

of Cennino Cennini 23 

other example, and with a bold heart you may 
always trust to it, especially when you begin to have 
some judgment in design. And continue always, 
and without fail, to draw something every day, not 
too little to be enough, and it will do you excellent 

CHAP. 29. How you should regulate your manner 
of living so as to preserve decorum, and keep your 
hand in proper condition ; and what company you 
should frequent ; and how you should select and 
draw a figure in relief} 

Your manner of living should always be regulated 
as if you were studying theology, philosophy, or 
any other science ; that is to say, eating and drink- 
ing temperately at least twice a day, using light 
and good food, and but little wine; sparing and 
reserving your hand, saving it from fatigue as throw- 
ing stones or iron bars, and many other things 
which are injurious to the hand, wearying it. There 
is still another cause, the occurrence of which may 
render your hand so unsteady that it will tremble 
and flutter more than leaves shaken by the wind, 
and this is frequenting too much the company of 
ladies. Let us return to our subject. Make a pocket 
of sheets of paper glued together, or of light wood, 

1 Lionardo in his treatise advises solitude to painters. 

24 The Book of the Art 

square-shaped, large enough to hold a foglio reale 
(royal sheet), that is, half one, and also serve for 
a desk to draw on. Then always retire alone, or 
with companions who are inclined to do as you do, 
and are not disposed to hinder your work ; and the 
more intellectual these companions are, the better 
will it be for you. When you are in churches or 
chapels, and you begin to draw, consider first what 
space, or history, or figures you wish to sketch, 
and remark where the shades, middle tints, and 
lights fall ; and I must tell you here to shade with 
ink and water, to leave the ground of the panel for 
the middle tints ; and to use white for the lights. 

CHAP. 30. In what manner you should begin to 
draw on paper with charcoal, and proportion 
the figure, and fix your drawing with a silver 

Procure some fine charcoal, cut to a point, like a 
pen or style, and the first measure that you take 
in drawing let it be one of the three parts into which 
the face is divided, namely, the head, hair, and fore- 
head, the nose, and the chin with the mouth, And 
taking one of these three parts, it- is a guide to you 
for the whole figure, for the buildings, from one 
figure to another, and is a perfect guide if you use 
your intelligence in knowing how to follow these 

of Cennino Cennini 25 

measures; and this is done because the historical 
painting, or the figure you copy, may be of large 
dimensions, and you may be unable to reach with 
the hand to measure it. You must make use of your 
understanding, and in this way you will discover 
truth. If you have not proportioned your drawing 
successfully by the first touches, take a feather, 
either of a hen or goose, as may be, and with the 
feather part of it rub and clean away the charcoal 
from what you have drawn, and the design will 
be effaced. Begin again from that part the pro- 
portions of which appear to agree with the original; 
and when you see that it is about correct, take the 
silver style, and pick out the outlines and extremities 
of your design, and the main folds. When you have 
done this, with the feather part of the quill or fluffy 
feather (penna pelosa) remove the charcoal, and your 
drawing will be fixed by the style. 

CHAP. 31. How to draw and shade on tinted paper 
in water-colours, and heighten the lights with 

When you have gained the power in the hand 
of shading, take a brush, rather blunt, and with 
water and ink in a small vase go over the main 
folds, and then soften the dark of the fold according 
to its direction. This water-colour must be almost 

26 The Book of the Art 

like slightly tinted water, and the brush must be 
almost dry. Do not hurry, but shade by degrees, 
always returning with your pencil to the darkest parts. 
Do you know what will happen from this proceeding ? 
If the water has but little colour, and you take 
pleasure in shading, and do not hurry yourself, your 
shades will at last appear soft, like smoke. Always 
remember to keep the brush flat. ^WFTeri you can 
shade well, take a drop or two of ink, add it to the 
water-colour, and stir it well ; and then in the same 
manner find the depths of -these folds, seeking the 
very bottom of them always remembering, while 
shading, your three divisions: the first consists of 
shades, the second of the colour of the ground, and 
the third of the lights. When you have done this, 
take a little white lead well ground with gum-arabic 
hereafter I shall treat of the manner in which this 
gum should be liquefied and dissolved, and I shall also 
treat of all kinds of vehicles ; a very little white will 
be sufficient. Put some clean water in a little vase, 
dip your brush into it, and rub it on the prepared 
white lead, particularly if it is dry; then hold it on 
the ball of your thumb, and, squeezing the brush, 
discharge the colour from it, so that you leave it 
almost dry. Begin by rubbing the brush flat over 
those places where there ought to be lights and 
relievos, and go many times over them, but with dis- 
cretion ; then for the extreme relievos and high lights, 

of Cennino Cennini 27 

take a pointed brush, and touch them with the point 
of the brush dipped in white. Take a small brush, 
and with pure ink draw the folds and outlines, noses, 
eyes, and the divisions between the locks of the hair, 
and beard. 

CHAP. 32. How you may draw with white in water- 
colour, as well as shade with water and ink. 

I advise also, when you are more practised, that 
you endeavour to draw with white in water-colour 
as you did with ink and water. Take white lead 
ground with water, and temper it with the yolk of 
an egg, and shade (wash ?) softly as you did with 
the ink water-colours; but it is more difficult and 
requires more practice. Both methods are called 
drawing on tinted paper, and they will lead to the 
art of colouring. Practise as frequently as you can, 
for it is the whole of your education ; attend closely, 
and with great diligence, delight, and pleasure, to 
these studies. 

CHAP. 33. -In what manner good and fine charcoal 
crayons may be made. 

Before we proceed further, I will teach you how to 
make crayons of charcoal. Take some slips of willow, 
dry and smooth, and cut them into pieces as long as 

28 The Book of the Art 

the palm of the hand or the little finger ; then divide 
them like matches, and fasten them together like a 
bundle of matches; but first polish and sharpen them 
on each side as if they were tin. Thus, laying them 
in bundles, bind each bundle in three places, that is, 
by the middle and each end, with a fine copper or 
iron wire ; then take a new pipkin, and fill the pipkin 
with them ; put on an earthen cover, and lute it 
round with chalk or clay, so that no air can enter. 
Then go to the baker in the evening, when he has 
left off work, that is, when he has finished baking the 
bread, . and put this pipkin in the oven, and let it 
remain till morning; then look whether the crayons 
are well burnt and black. If they are not black 
enough, let them remain till they are so. How to 
see if they are right ? Take one of the crayons and 
draw with it, either on paper (parchment ?) or tinted 
paper, or on a primed panel. If the crayon works 
freely it will do ; if it is too much baked it will not 
keep together in drawing, but will split to pieces. I 
will tell you another way of making these crayons. 
Take a small baking-pan, covered as above mentioned ; 
put it at night under the fire, cover the fire well 
with ashes, and go to bed. in the morning the 
crayons will be done. And in the same manner you 
may make small or large crayons as you please, and 
there are no better crayons in the world. 

of Cennino Cennini 29 

CHAP. 34. Of a stone ivhich is of the nature of 
charcoal for drawing. 

I have found that a certain black stone which comes 
from Piedmont is good for drawing ; it is a soft stone 
and very black ; it can be sharpened with a knife, for 
it is soft. You can bring it to the same perfection. 
Draw with it what you please. 

CHAP. 35. Returning to the grinding of the colours. 

In order that step by step we may attain to the 
light of art, we come to the grinding of the colours, 
and to instructing you which are fine or coarse or 
impure; that some require but little, others much 
grinding; some demand one vehicle, some another; 
and how they differ in colour, as in the manner of 
tempering them and grinding them. 

CHAP. 36. What are natural colours (figments), and 
how to grind black. 

You must know that there are seven natural 
colours; namely, four which are of the nature of 
earths, as black, red, yellow, and green; three are 
natural colours, but require the assistance of art, as 
white, ultramarine blue, or dell a magna blue, and 

30 The Book of the Art 

Naples yellow. We will not proceed further, but 
return to the black pigment. To grind it properly, 
procure a slab of porphyry which is hard and strong, 
for there are many kinds of stones for grinding 
colours, as porphyry, serpentine, and marble. Ser- 
pentine is a soft stone, and is not good; marble 
is worse, that is, softer ; porphyry is the best of all ; 
and if. you procure a slab very pale-coloured, it will 
be best. One of those which are not very much 
polished is also best. It should be about half a 
braccio square. 1 Take another stone to hold in the 
hand, also of porphyry, flat underneath and raised 
above in the shape of a porringer and half the size, 
of such a form that the hand may be mistress of it 
and move and guide it at pleasure. Then take some 
of the black (or of any other colour), about the size 
of a walnut, and put it on the slab, and with that 
stone which you hold in your hand break the pigment 
into small pieces. Put some clean water, either from 
a river, a fountain, or a well, to the colour, and grind 
it well for the space of half-an-hour, or an hour, or 
as long as you please; but know, that if you were 
to grind it for a year, so much the blacker and better 
would be the colour. Then take a flat piece of fine- 
grained wood, three fingers wide, part of which is 
shaped like the blade of a knife, and with this blade 

1 A grinding stone of $ braccio, that is, under a foot, is small. A 
slab of plate-glass answers very well, and a glass muller. 

of Cennino Cennini 31 

scrape the stone and collect the colour neatly; keep 
it liquid, and not too dry, that it may flow well on 
the stone, and that you may be able to grind it 
thoroughly, and collect it all. Put it then into a 
small vase, and pour clean water on it till the vase 
is full ; and in this manner keep it always soft, and 
well covered from the dust, and from all other harm, 
that is, in a little box suitable for holding several 
vessels containing liquid. 

CHAP. 37. -How to make black in several ways. 

Remember that there are several black pigments, 
one of which is a soft black stone, and the colour is 
opaque (grasso). I must inform you that transparent 
colours are better than those which have much body, 
except that in laying on gold, the richer (piu*grassd) 
the bole or terra-verde, when you have pictures to 
gild, the better will be the gold. Let us leave this 
subject. Another black is made of the young shoots 
of the vine, which are to be burnt, and when burnt, 
thrown into water, and quenched, and then ground 
like other black pigments. This colour is black and 
transparent (magro), and it is one of the most perfect 
pigments we use. Another black is made of the shells 
of almonds, or of peach-stones ; this also makes a 
perfect and fine black. Another black is made in this 
manner : Take a lampful of linseed oil, fill the lamp 

32 The Book of the Art 

with this oil, light the lamp, and put it under a clean 
bakingKlish, so that the flame of the lamp shall be 
about the distance of two or three fingers from the 
dish, and the smoke which comes from the flame shall 
strike against the bottom of the dish ; it will get 
covered thick with smoke. Collect the smoke to- 
gether ; wait a little ; take the baking-dish, and sweep 
off the smoke which is the pigment into paper, or 
into some vessel ; it does not require grinding, because 
it is already a very fine powder. Thus refill the 
lamp several times with the oil, put it back under the 
dish, and make in this manner as much as you 

CHAP. 38. Of the nature of a red pigment called 

There is a natural red pigment, which is called 
sinopia or porphyry. The colour is naturally trans- 
parent (magro) and drying. It bears grinding well, 
and the more it is ground, the finer it is. It is good 
for painting either on panels or walls, in fresco or in 
secco. These terms, 'fresco* and 'secco,' shall be 
explained to you when I treat of painting on walls. 
And this is enough about the first kind of red. 

of Cennino Cennini 33 

CHAP. 39. How to make the red pigment which is 
called cinabrese, for the flesh- colours on walls , and 
its nature. 

There is a red colour called light cinabrese, and I 
do not know that this colour is used anywhere but in 
Florence; it is perfect for flesh-painting, for making 
the flesh of figures on walls, and works well in fresco. 
This colour is made of the finest and lightest sinopia 
which is to be found; it is mixed and ground with 
bianco sangiovanni, as it is called in Florence (a white 
made of a very white well-slaked lime). And when 
you have well ground together these two colours, that 
is, two parts of cinabrese, and the third lime-white, 
make them into cakes the size of half a walnut, and 
let them dry, and when you require some take what 
seems right. This colour will do you honour for 
painting faces, hands, and naked figures on walls, as 
I have said. And sometimes you may make with it 
beautiful draperies, which on walls look like cinnabar. 

CHAP. 40. Of the properties of a red called cinna- 
bar, and how it ought to be ground. 

There is a red colour called cinnabar, and this 

colour is made by a chemical process performed in 
an alembic, which I will leave alone, as it would 

34 The Book of the Art 

take too much time to put in my explanation ea< 
method and recipe. If you wish to fatigue youi 
self with it, you will find plenty of recipes, especially 
collecting them among the monks. But I advise yen 
that you may not lose your time in the many variation! 
in the methods, to get what you want at the apothi 
cary's and pay for it ; and I will teach you how to bu] 
it and to distinguish good cinnabar. Always purch* 
the whole cinnabar, unbroken and unground. 
reason ? Because it is often adulterated with miniui 
(red lead) and with pounded brick^dust. Examine tl 
whole lump of cinnabar, and at the top, where tl 
veining 1 is most extensive and finest, it is the be* 
Put this then upon the slab above mentioned, grinding 
it with clean water as much as you can ; if you were 
to grind it every day for twenty years, it would be but 
the better and more perfect. This pigment requires 
various temperas, according to the situation in which 
it is to be used ; but of this I shall hereafter speak, 
and shall give you proper directions in a more fitting 
place. But bear in mind that it is not its nature 
to be exposed to the open air; it is more lasting 
on panels than on walls, because, by long exposure 
to the open air (air aria) ft becomes black when 
applied to walls. 

1 Or crystallisation, 'tiglio. 1 

of Cennino Cennini 35 

CHAP. 41. Of the properties of a red which is called 
minium (red lead). 

There is a pigment called minium, which is arti- 
ficially produced by chemistry. This pigment is only 
proper to be used in pictures (on panels), for if it is 
used on walls, on exposure to the open air it suddenly 
becomes black, and loses its colour. 

CHAP. 42. Of the properties of a red called amatisto 
or amatito. 

There is a red colour called amatito. This is a 
natural colour, and is produced from a very hard and 
solid stone. It js so solid and perfect (flawless ?) 
that tools and teeth are made of it to burnish gold on 
panels, which tools become of a colour very dark and 
perfect and as polished as a diamond. The pure 
stone is of a maroon or purple colour, and is crystal- 
lised (ha tin tiglio) like cinnabar. Break this stone 
in a bronze mortar, because if you were to break it 
upon the porphyry slab you might split it ; and when 
you have broken it put a small quantity on the slab, 
and grind it well with clean water ; and the more you 
grind it the better it will be, and the more perfect the 
colour. This pigment is proper for walls and for work- 
ing in fresco ; and it makes a colour such as cardinals 
wear, or a violet or lake colour. If you want to use 
it for other things, or with tempera, it is not good. 

36 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 43. Of the nature of a red called dragon'* 

There is a red called dragon's blood. This col< 
is sometimes used on parchment (carta), in miniatui 
painting. Let it alone, however, and be not t< 
anxious for it ; it is not of a nature to do you mu< 

CHAP. 44. Of the nature of a red pigment which 
is called lake. 

There is a red called lake, which is an artificially 
made pigment. There are many recipes for it ; but 
I advise you pay your money and take the colour 
ready-made, out of regard to the skilled processes 
necessary; but be careful to distinguish the best, for 
there are many sorts of it. If the lake is made of the 
shreds of cloth, or stuffs, it is very beautiful to the 
eye; but beware of this, because it always retains 
some body by reason of the alum which it contains 
is not durable, either tempered or not, and rapidly 
loses its colour. Be careful to shun this kind; but 
procure the lake which is obtained from gum, and is 
dry and transparent, and granular, so that it almost 
appears to be earth : it has a blood-red colour. This 
cannot be otherwise than good and perfect. Take 
this and grind it on the stone. Grind it with clean 

of Cennino Cennini 37 

water ; it is good on panels. It is also used on walls 
with tempera, but the open air is destructive to it. 
Some there are who grind it in urine, but this is 
unpleasant, and soon becomes offensive. 

CHAP. 45. Of the nature of a yellow colour which 
is called ochre. 

There is a natural yellow called ochre. This pig- 
ment is found in mountainous country, where there 
are veins of it like sulphur ; where these veins exist 
are found sinopia, verde-terra, and other pigments. I 
found this ore, having been taken one day by my 
father, Andrea Cennini, to the territory of the Colle di 
Valdelsa, near the confines of Casole, on the outskirts 
of the wood of the commune of Colle, above a villa 
called Dometaria, and coming to a small valley, and 
into a very wild grotto, and digging with a spade, I 
saw veins of many colours, namely of ochre, light and 
dark sinopia, blue and white ; and it seemed to be the 
greatest miracle in the world that white should come 
from veins in the earth ; but I remember that I made 
a trial of this white and found it unctuous (grasso), 
and unfit for the colouring of flesh. There was also in 
this place a vein of a black colour ; and these colours 
were as visible on the earth here as any marking in 
the face of a man or woman. 

But let us return to the ochre-pigment I went 

38 The Book of the Art 

with a knife seeking everywhere where the veins of 
this colour showed, and I assure you that I never met 
with more beautiful or perfect ochre. I agree that it 
does not show up as bright as Naples yellow, it is 
a little darker; but for hair and drapery, as I shall 
hereafter instruct you, I never found any colour better 
than this ochre. It is of two kinds, light and dark. 
Each colour requires to be ground in the same man- 
ner, with clean water; and grind them well, they will 
be all the better for it. You must know that this 
colour is of general usefulness, specially in fresco- 
painting, and with other mixtures. It is used, as I 
shall tell you hereafter, in painting flesh, in colouring 
landscapes, mountains, buildings, horses, 1 and in many 
other things. This colour is, in its nature, of good 
body (grasso). 

CHAP. 46. Of the nature of a yellow called giallorino 
(Naples yellow). 

There is a yellow colour called giallorino, which 
is made artificially, and is very hard. It is as heavy 
as a stone, and hard to break. This colour is used 
in fresco, and is very everlasting, that is, on walls 
and on panels, with tempera. It must be ground, like 
the other colours, with clean water. It does not want 
to be much ground ; and before you grind it, because 

, * Milanesi corrects from cavalleria to capelliera, hair. 

of Cennino Cennini 


it is very troublesome to reduce to powder, it is better 
to break it in pieces in a bronze mortar, as I advised 
you to do with regard to the lapis amatisto. And 
when you have put it on your work, it is a yellow 
of a very lovely colour ; so that with this colour, with 
other mixtures, as I will show you, is made beautiful 
verdure and grass-colour. I wish you to understand 
that this is a real stone, produced in mountainous 
volcanic districts; therefore, I say it is an artificial 
pigment, but not a chemical preparation. 

CHAP. 47. Of the nature of a pigment called orpiment. 

There is a yellow pigment called orpiment. This 
is an artificial pigment, and a chemical preparation, 
and is very poisonous. It is a very lovely yellow, 
like gold in colour. It is not good for walls, neither 
in fresco nor with tempera, because by exposure to 
the open air it becomes black. It is very good for 
painting shields and lances. This colour, mixed with 
indigo, makes a green the colour of grass and herbage. 

Sparrowhawks (sparvieri) are doctored with this 
pigment, in a certain illness which attacks them. It 
is the hardest colour to grind of any used in our art; 
therefore, when you are going to grind it, put the 
quantity you want on the stone, and with that stone 
which you hold in your hand, coax and press it 
between the stones, mixing with it a little crushed 

4 o The Book of the Art 

glass, because the powdered glass draws the orpiment 
to the roughness of the atone. When you have broken 
it to pieces, put clean water to it and grind it as much 
as you can, and if you were to grind it for ten years, 
so much the better would it be. Beware of letting it 
soil your mouth, lest you harm yourself. 

CHAP. 48. Of the nature of a yellow called risalgallo 
(realgar, or red orpiment). 

There is a yellow colour called risalgallo; this 
colour is very poisonous. It is not used by us except 
sometimes on panels. It cannot be mixed with any 
other colour. If you wish to grind it, do as I have 
before directed : it must be ground with a good deal 
of water ; and guard your person from contact with it. 

CHAP. 49. Of the nature of a yellow called zafferano 

There is a yellow colour, made from a drug called 
saffron; you must put it into a piece of linen upon a 
hot stone or brick ; get about half a glassful of strong 
lye, put the saffron in it and grind it on the stone. 
It will produce a beautiful colour for dyeing linen or 
cloth. It is good on parchment (cartd). Do not ex- 
pose it to the open air, for it soon loses its colour. 
And if you would make the most perfect colour 

of Cennino Cennini 41 

possible for grass, take a little verderame (verdigris) 
and some zafferano, that is, of three parts, one saffron, 
and the most beautiful green grass colour will result 
which can be made. Temper it with size as I have 
before directed. 

CHAP. 50. Of the nature of a yellow called ar steal- 

There is a yellow pigment called arzica, which is 
a chemical preparation and not much used. It is 
chiefly used by miniature-painters, and more by those 
of the neighbourhood of Florence than at any other 
place. It is a very delicate colour, not durable when 
exposed to the open air, is not proper for walls, but 
is good on panels; mixed with a little azzurro della 
magna and giallorino, it makes a beautiful green. It 
must be ground, like all other fine colours, with clean 

CHAP. 51. Of the nature of a green called verde-terra. 

There is a natural green pigment which is an earth, 
and is called verde- terra. This colour has many 
uses. First, as it is a very full-bodied pigment, it 
is proper to use for faces, draperies, buildings, in 
fresco and secco, on walls, on panels, and wherever 
you please. Grind it as I have told you to grind 

1 Milanesi suggests that this is a vitreous yellow. 

42 The Book of the Art 

the other colours, with clean water; and the more 
you grind it, the better it is. And if you temper 
it in the same manner as I shall direct you to temper 
bole for putting on gold, you may in the same way 
lay on gold upon verde-terra. And know that the 
ancients were never accustomed to lay gold on panels, 
otherwise than with this verde-terra. 

CHAP. 52. Of the nature of a green called verde- 
azzurro {malachite green or verditer). 

There is a green pigment which is partly natural, 
but requires artificial preparation. It is made of 
azzurro della magna. This is called verde-azzurro. 
Do not trouble yourself as to how it is made, but 
buy it ready-made. This colour is good in secco, 
tempered with yolk of egg, to paint trees and grass, 
and also for laying flat tints ; and they lighten it with 
giallorino (Naples yellow). This colour is of itself 
coarse and sandy. For love of the azzurro grind 
it very little with a light hand, because, if it be 
too much ground, it will become a faded and ashen 
colour. It must be ground with clean water, and when 
you have ground it pour clean water into the vase on 
the colour, and stir both well together ; then let it rest 
for an hour or two, or three; pour away the water, 
and the green will be most beautiful. Wash it in this 
manner two or three times, and it will be still finer. 

of Cennino Cennini 43 

CHAP. 53. How to make a green with orpiment and 

There is a green colour made of two parts of orpi- 
ment and one of indigo, and grind them well together 
with clean water. This colour is good for shields and 
lances, and it is also used for painting rooms in secco. 
It does not like any other tempera than glue (size). 

CHAP. 54. How to make a green with verde-azzurro 
and Naples yellcw (giallorino). 

There is a green colour made with verde-azzurro 
and giallorino. This is proper for walls and pictures 
(panels), and is tempered with the yolk of egg. If 
you would make the colour more beautiful, add to it 
a little arzica; also it is a beautiful colour, adding to 
it some azzurro della magna; pounding some wild 
plums and making verjuice (agresto), and of this 
putting four or six drops to the blue. It makes a 
beautiful green, but does not bear exposure to the open 
air. And in time the verjuice entirely disappears. 

CHAP. 55. How to make a green with ultramarine 

A green colour may be made of ultramarine and 
orpiment. These colours must be mixed with judg- 
ment. First take the orpiment, and then add the blue. 

44 The Book of the Art 

If you would have it incline to a light green, let the 
orpiment prevail; if to a dark green, let the blue 
prevail. This colour is proper for pictures (panels), 
but not for walls. Temper it with size. 

CHAP. 56. Of the nature of a green called verdigris 

There is a green pigment called verderame. It is 
sufficiently green of itself, and is an artificial chemical 
production, made of copper and vinegar. This colour 
is used on panels tempered with glue. Be careful 
never to put it near white lead, because these two 
colours are mortal enemies in everything. Grind it 
with vinegar, which it is its nature to retain ; and it 
makes a green for grass most perfect and beautiful 
to the eye, but not durable. It is good on parch- 
ment, on paper, or on vellum, tempered with the 
yolk of an egg. 

CHAP. 57, How make a green with verde-terra 
and biacca, or with bianco sangiovanni. 

There is a green the colour of sage, which is made 
by mixing biacca and terra-verde, for panels, tempered 
wkh the yolk of an egg ; for walls in fresco, mix the 
verde-terra with bianco sangiovanni made of slaked 
white lime. 

of Cennino Cennini 45 

CHAP. 58. Of the nature of bianco sangiovanni 

There is a natural white pigment which, however, 
requires some preparation. It is prepared in this 
manner. Take very white slaked lime (calcina sfioratd)\ 
pulverise it, and put it into a little tub for the space 
of eight days, changing the water every day, and 
mixing the lime and water well together, in order that 
it may throw off all unctuous properties (grassezzd). 
Then make it into small cakes, put them upon the roof 
of the house in the sun, and the older these cakes are, 
the whiter they become. If you wish to do it quickly 
and well, when the cakes are dry, grind them on your 
slab with water, and then make them into cakes and 
dry them again. Do this twice, and you will see what 
a perfect white it will become. This white must be 
ground with water, and thoroughly. It is good for 
working in fresco, that is, on walls without tempera ; 
and without this colour you can do nothing, I mean, 
you cannot paint flesh, or make tints of the other 
colours which are necessary in painting on walls, 
namely, in fresco ; and it never requires any tempera. 

CHAP. 59. Of the nature ofbiacca (white lead). 

There is a white pigment prepared chemically from 
lead, which is called biacca. This white is strong 

46 The Book of the Art 

and brilliant (focosa), and is in cakes of the shape of 
drinking-glasses. To know the best sort, always select 
that kind the top of which is in the form of a cup. 
The more this colour is ground, the more perfect it 
is; it is proper for pictures. It is certainly used on 
walls; but beware of it nevertheless, for in time it 
becomes black. Grind it with water ; it will bear any 
tempera, and will enable you to make your colours 
lighter in pictures (on panels) in the same manner 
as the other white does on walls. 

CHAP. 60. Of the nature of azzurro della magna 
(blue verditer or lazulite). 

There is a natural pigment of a blue colour, which 
is found in and around veins of silver. A great 
quantity is produced in Germany and also in Siena, 
but it must be perfected artificially by the pastel lo. 
When you are going to lay on grounds with this blue, 
you must grind it very little at a time and carefully 
with water, for it has a horror of the grinding-slab. 
If you would use it for draperies, or to make greens, 
as I have told you before, you must grind it more. 
This pigment is good on walls, in secco, and on 
pictures (panels) ; it bears a tempera of yolk of egg, 
glue, or whatever you please. 

of Cennino Cennini 47 

CHAP. 61. To imitate with other colours azzurro 
delta magna. 

To make a light blue like azzurro, take indaco 
baccadeo (indigo from Bagdad) and grind it very fine, 
with water ; and for pictures, mix it with a little biacca ; 
and for wills, with a little bianco sangiovanni. It be- 
comes like azzurro, and must be tempered with glue. 

CHAP. 62. Of the nature of azzurro oltre marine 
(ultramarine blue), and how it is prepared. 

Ultramarine blue is a colour noble, beautiful, and 
perfect beyond all other colours, and there is nothing 
that could be said of it but it will still exceed this 
(praise). On account of its great excellence, I shall 
speak of it at length, and give you full directions for 
preparing it ; and you must pay great attention to 
them, that you may gain honour and service from 
them. And with this colour, together with gold (which 
adorns all the works of our art) let everything be 
resplendent, whether on walls or panels. 

First take some lapis lazuli; and if you would 
know how to distinguish the best stones, take those 
which contain most of the blue colour, for it is mixed 
with what is like ashes. That which contains least of 
this ash pigment is the best ; but be careful that you 

4 8 The Book of the Art 

do not mistake for it azzurro della magna, which is as 
beautiful to the eye as enamel. 

Pound it in a covered bronze mortar, that the 
powder may not fly away ; then put it on your slab 
porphyry, and grind it without water ; afterwards take 
a covered strainer like that used by the druggists for 
sifting drugs (spices), and sift it and pound again as 
much as is required. But bear in mind that though 
the more you grind, the more finely powdered the 
azzurro will be, yet it will not be so beautiful and rich 
and deep in colour ; and that the finely ground sort is 
fit for miniature-painters, and for draperies inclining 
to white. When the powder is prepared, procure 
from the druggist, six ounces of resin of the pine, 
three ounces of mastic, and three ounces of new wax 
to each pound of lapis lazuli. Put all these ingredients 
into a new pipkin and melt them together. Then take 
a piece of white linen and strain these things into a 
glazed basin. Then take a pound of the powder of 
lapis lazuli ; mix it all well together into a paste, and 
that you may be able to handle the paste, take linseed 
oil, and keep your hands always well anointed with 
this oil. This paste must be kept at least three days 
and three nights, kneading it a little every day; and 
remember that you may keep it for fifteen days or a 
month, or as long as you please. When you would 
extract the azure from the paste, proceed thus. Make 
two sticks of strong wood, neither too thick nor too 

of Cennino Cennini 49 

thin, about a foot long ; let them be well rounded at 
each end and well polished (smoothed). Then, your 
paste being in the glazed basin into which you first 
put it, add to it a porringerful of lye, moderately warm; 
and with these two sticks, one In each hand, turn and 
squeeze and knead the paste thoroughly, exactly in 
the manner that you would knead bread. When you 
see that the lye is thoroughly blue, pour it put into a 
glazed basin; take the same quantity of fresh lye, 
pour it over the paste, and work it with the sticks as 
before. When this lye is very blue, pour it into 
another glazed basin, and continue to do so for several 
days, until the paste no longer tinges the lye. Then 
throw it away, it is good for nothing. Range all the 
basins before you on a table in order, that is to 
say, the first, second, third, and fourth ; then beginning 
at the first, with your hand stir up the lye with the 
azure, which by its weight will have sunk to the 
bottom, and then you will know the depth of colour 
of the azure. Consider how many shades of the azure 
you will have, whether three, or four, or six, or what 
number you please, always remembering that the first- 
drawn extracts are the best, as the first basin is better 

than the second. And if you have eighteen basins of 

extract, and you wish to make three shades of azure, 
take the contents of six basins and mix them together ; 
that will be one shade. Proceed in the same manner 

with the others. But remember that if you have good 


so The Book of the Art 

lapis lazuli, the azure from the first two extracts is 
worth eight ducats the ounce. The last two extracts 
are worse than ashes may your eyes therefore be 
experienced, so as not to spoil the good azure by 
mixing it with the bad ; and each day remove the lye 
that the azure may dry. When it is quite dry, 
according to the sorts you have, put it into skins, 
bladders, or purses, as may be most convenient, and 
take notice that if the lapis lazuli should not be very 
good, or if after having ground it the colour were not 
to turn out deep (violante) enough, I will tell you 
how to give it a little colour. Take a little pounded 
kermes lake (grand) and a little verzino, but mind the 
verzino is grated or scraped with glass ; and then boil 
them together with lye or a little roche alum. And 
when they boil, and you see that the colour is a perfect 
crimson, before you have withdrawn the azure from 
the porringer, but well dried from lye, add to it a little 
of this lake and verzino, and with your finger mix 
everything well together; and let them remain till 
dried, without sun, or fire, or wind. When dry, put it 
into a skin or purse, and rejoice in it, for it is good 
and perfect. And bear in mind that it is a rare gift 
to know how to make it well. *You must know also 
that it is rather the art of maidens than of men to 
make it, because they remain continually in the house, 
and are more patient and their hands are more 
delicate. But beware of old women. When you 

of Cennino Cennini 51 

would use this azure, take as much as you want: 
and if you are going to work on light dresses, it 
must be ground a little on your usual stone. And if 
you want it for laying grounds, it must be very little 
worked on the stone and always with very clear water, 
the stone being well washed and clean. And if the 
azure should get soiled in any way, take a little lye 
or clean water, and put it into the vase, and stir them 
well together, changing it two or three times, when 
the blue will be quite clean. I shall not treat of its 
tempera, because I shall hereafter describe all the tem- 
peras proper for every colour to bv used on pictures, 
on walls, on iron, on paper, on stone, or on glass. 

CHAP. 63. Showing that it is necessary to know how 
to make brushes. 

As I have told you the names of all the colours 
individually which are used with brushes, and how 
they are ground, which colours must always be kept 
in a box well covered, and must be prevented from 
hardening by being kept wet with water (col becco 
sempre in molle, e bagnati], I will now instruct you 
how to use them both with tempera and without. But 
you must first know how to make use of them, and 
this you cannot do without brushes. Therefore we will 
leave these subjects, while I teach you how to make the 
brushes, which you are to do in the following manner. 

52 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 64. How minever brushes are made. 1 
In painting, two kinds of brushes are necessary, 
namely, minever and hog's bristles. Those of minever 
are made in the following manner: Take the tails 
of the minever, for no others will do, and these tails 
must be baked and not raw. The furriers will tell 
you so. From the tip of such a tail draw the longest 
hairs, and collect the tips of many tails, so that from 
six or eight points you may make a soft pencil fit for 
laying gold on pictures, that is to say, to wet it with 
in the manner that I shall direct hereafter. Let us 
return now to the tail, which you are to take in your 
hand, and select the straightest and stiffest hairs 
from the middle of the tail; gradually make them 
into small bundles; soak them in a glass of clear 
water, then press and squeeze each bundle with the 
fingers. Then cut them with scissors; and when 
you have made many bundles, tie them together any 
thickness you please for pencils, so that they can be 
put into the quill of a vulture, of a goose, of a hen, 
or of a dove. When you have made them in this 
manner, laying the points very even, take waxed 
thread or silk, and with two knots fasten them well 
together, each sort by itself, the size you would have 

1 We may be quite contented not to have to make brushes for 
ourselves. The monks of Mount Athos complained very much of their 
home-made ones (Didron). Minever comes from old French menu vair, 
var, or vair, meaning ermine. Minever means mixed or spotted fur, 
i.e. the grey squirrel 

of Cennino Cennini 53 

your brushes. Then take a quill, of a size cor- 
responding to that of the bundle of hairs, and cut 
off the end of the quill, and put the bundle of hairs 
into the quill, and take care to squeeze in as many 
as you can, so that the brush may be stiff, for the 
firmer and shorter it is the better, and the more 
delicate the work it can do. Then make a small 
stick of maple, larch, or chestnut, or any other good 
wood; make it smooth and clean, scrape it into the 
form of a spindle, of such size that it shall fit tightly 
into the quill, and be about a span long : and this is 
the way to make brushes of minever. It is true that 
minever brushes are of various kinds; for instance, 
some are proper for laying on gold, some for putting 
on flat washes, which require to be blunted a little with 
the scissors, and rubbed upon the porphyry stone to 
soften them a little. Some brushes should have a 
perfect point for drawing outlines, and some must be 
very small and fine, for certain very minute works 
and figures. 

CHAP. 65. In what manner brushes of hog's bristles 
are to be made. 

Hog's-bristle brushes are made in this manner. 
First take bristles from a white pig, which are better 
than black ones (but mind they are from the domestic 
pig), and make them into a large brush in which you 

54 The Book of the Art 

must put a pound of bristles, and bind them to a 
large stick with a knot of . . .* Such brushes must 
be softened by whitening walls and washing those 
which are to be covered with mortar. 2 Afterwards 
unfasten this brush, and make the bristles up into 
other brushes of all sorts. Let some of them be of 
the kind which are called blunt brushes (pennelli 
mozsi), in which the hairs are all of equal length ; and 
some should be pointed, and you must have them of 
all sizes. Then make sticks of the wood formerly 
mentioned, and bind each bundle with a double waxed 
thread. Introduce the point of the stick into the 
bundle of bristles, and bind it evenly half the length 
of the bristles, and then along upon the stick, and 
finish all the others in the same manner. 

CHAP. 66. How to preserve the tails of the minever 
from being moth-eaten. 

If you would preserve the tails of the minever so 
that they should not be moth-eaten, and the hairs 
should not fall off, steep them in kneaded clay or 
chalk, stick them tight into it, hang them up and let 
them remain so. When you wcmld use them, or make 
them into brushes, wash them well with clean water. 

1 Word in MS. is defaced. 

1 This is a good hint. It- is impossible to ground with a new brush, 
but the effect of time and use may be partially counterfeited by rubbing 
the tips down on sand-paper. 

of Cennino Cennini 55 

CHAP. 67. The manner of painting on walls, that is, 
in fresco, and of colouring or painting the flesh 
of the faces of young persons. 

In the name of the most Holy Trinity, I will now 
put you to colouring. I begin first with painting 
on walls, and shall teach you step by step the 
manner in which you ought to proceed. When you 
are going to paint on walls, which is the most de- 
lightful and charming kind of work that there can 
be, procure, in the first place, lime and sand, both of 
them well sifted. If the lime is very rich and fresh, 
it will require two parts of sand, the third of lime. 
Grind them well together with water, and grind 
enough to last you fifteen or twenty days. Let it 
rest for some days till it be quite slaked; for if 
any heat remains in it, it cracks the plaster (intonaco). 
When you are going to plaster, first sweep the wall, 
and wet it well you cannot wet it too much; and 
take the well - stirred lime, a trowelful at a time, 
and spread it over once or twice, till the intonaco 
becomes quite even on the wall. Afterwards, when 
you are going to work, remember to make the sur- 
face of the mortar quite rough (bene arricciatd) with a 
good tooth (rasposd). Then, according to the subject 
or figures you have to make, if the intonaco is dry, 
take some charcoal, and design and compose, and 
take every measurement carefully, first striking one 


$6 The Book of the Art 

line, taking the centre of the space, and another for 
the horizon. 1 The perpendicular line by means of 
which the horizontal one is obtained must be made 
with a plumb-line. Then put one foot of the large 
compasses on the top of this line. Turn the com- 
A passes half round on the 

under side ; then put the 
leg of the compasses on 
the point of intersection 
of these two lines 2 and 
make the other half- 
circle above, and you 
will always find a cross 
on your right hand by 
the lines intersecting 
each other. Do the 
same on the left hand, 
which will give you two 

crosses, and the line between will be exactly level. 8 
Then draw with charcoal, as I have before directed 
you, historical pieces and figures, and arrange your 
spaces always equal. 4 Next take a small and pointed 

1 The Italian implies that this should be done with a stretched string 
coloured with powder, which, being struck, marks the wall. 

2 The perpendicular and the half-circle. 

* This diagram has been inserted to explain Cennino's meaning. 
A A is the plumb-line, HH the horizon line obtained by the intersect- 
ing circles. 

4 Probably meaning to balance and correspond in size and com- 

of Cennino Cennini 57 

bristle-brush, with a little ochre without tempera, as 
liquid as water, and continue to draw your figures, 
shading them as you did with water-colours when I 
taught you to draw. Afterwards take a bunch of 
feathers and thoroughly brush away the charcoal. 

Then take a little sinopia without tempera, and 
with a finely pointed brush mark out the nose, eyes, 
hair, and all the extremities and outlines of the 
figures, and let these figures be correctly set out in 
every measurement which helps you to realise and 
project the figures which you have to paint. Then 
make your fringes (or ornaments, fregi) and accessories 
as you please. Take some of the above-mentioned 
lime ; stir it well with a trowel till it is like the con- 
sistence of ointment. Then consider how much you 
can paint in a day; for whatever you cover with 
the plaster you must finish the same day. Some- 
times in winter, in damp weather, working on a 
stone wall, the plaster remains fresh till the next 
day; but if you can help it do not delay, because 
when painting in fresco, that which is finished in 
one day is the firmest and best, and is the most 
beautiful work. Then spread over a coat of thin 
intonaco, and not too much, first wetting the old 
intonaco. Next take your large hog's-hair brush in 
your hand, steep it in clean water, beat it and wet 
your plaster with it, and then with a slip of wood 
as wide as the palm of your hand, rub round and 

58 The Book of the Art 

round over the wetted intonaco so as to remove the 
lime where you have put too much, and put more 
where there is not enough, and thus make your 
plaster quite smooth. Then wet the plaster with 
the same brush if necessary, and with the point of 
the trowel, which must be very clean and smooth, 
rub all over the intonaco. Then place your 
plumb-line as usual, and measure as you did on 
the underlying intonaco. Let us suppose that you 
can paint in one day the head only of a young 
male or female saint, such as that of our most holy 
Lady. Having thus smoothed the lime of your 
intonaco, procure a glazed vessel ; the vessels should 
be all glazed and shaped like drinking or beer glasses, 
with a good heavy bottom that they may stand 
firmly, and not spill the colours. Take as much as 
a bean of dark - ochre (for there are two kinds of 
ochre, light and dark); and if you have no dark 
ochre, take light ochre ground very fine; put it into 
your vase, and take a little black the size of a lentil, 
mix it with the ochre ; tak a little bianco sangiovanni 
(lime- white) as much as the third of a bean, and as 
much light cinabrese as will lie on the point of a pen- 
knife; mix all these colours thoroughly together, 
and make them flowing and liquid with water, with- 
out tempera. Make a sharp brush of fine soft 
bristles, which may be introduced into the quill of 
a goose, and with this brush indicate with proper 

of Cennino Cennini 


expression the face you are going to paint (remember- 
ing that the face is divided into three parts, namely, 
the forehead, the nose, and the chin, with the mouth), 
and with your brush nearly dry, put on this colour, 
little by little, which is called in Florence verdaccio, 
and in Siena Bazzeo. 1 When you have sketched out 
the form of the face, if the proportions or any other 
thing should displease you, with a large brush steeped 
in water, by rubbing over the intonaco, you can efface 
and repair what you have done. Then take a little 
verde-terra, very liquid, in another vase, and with a 
hog's-bristle brush, without a point, squeezed with 
the fingers and thumb of the left hand, begin to 
shade under the chin, and all those parts of the 
face which should be darkest under the lips, the 
corners of the mouth, under the nose, and under 
the eyebrows, making the shade darker near the 
nose, a little on the edge of the eye towards the ear; 
and in the same manner making out with judgment 
(sentimentd) the whole face and hands, which are here- 
after to be coloured with flesh-colour. Next take a 
pointed minever brush, and strengthen all the outlines 
of the nose, eyes, lips, and ears, with the verdaccio. 
There are some masters who now, when the face is 
advanced thus far, take a little bianco sangiovanni 

1 This solitary reference to Siena is rather remarkable, but it may 
perhaps be connected with Vasari's statement that the MS. of the 
Trattato he had seen belonged to a Sienese goldsmith. 

60 The Book of the Art 

tempered with water, and seek out the high lights 
and reliefs in proper order; then give the rosy 
colours to the lips and cheeks ; then wash over the 
whole with the flesh-colours very liquid with water, 
and the colouring is done. It is a good plan to re- 
touch afterwards the high lights with a little white. 
Some wash over the whole face with the flesh- 
colour first ; they go picking out with a little 
verdaccio and flesh-colour, retouching with a little 
flesh-colour, and the work is finished. This plan 
is adopted by those only who know but little of the 
art ; but do you follow the method of colouring 
which I shall point out to you, because Giotto the 
great master followed it. He hadTaddo Gaddi the 
Florentine for his disciple for four-and-twenty years, 
who was his godson. Taddeo had Agnolo his son ; 
Agnolo had me for twelve years, whereby I gained 
this manner of colouring ; which Agnolo coloured with 
more charm and freshness than Taddeo his father. 

First take a small vase ; put into it (a tiny morsel 
is enough) a little biancd. sangiovanni, and a little 
light cinabrese, about as much of one as of the other. 
Temper them very liquid with clean water ; then with 
a soft bristle -brush, squeezed between the finger 
and thumb as before, go over the face when you 
have finished putting it in with verde-terra ; and with 
this red colour (rossetta) touch in the lips and the 
roses of the cheeks. My master was accustomed to put 

of Cennino Cennini 61 

the colour in the cheeks nearer the ear than the nose, 
because it assisted in giving relief to the face, and 
then he softened the rosiness well into the surround- 
ing colours. Then have three small vases, and make 
three shades of flesh-colour, so that the darkest 
may be darker by one-half than the rossetta, and 
the other two each lighter than the other in regular 
gradations. Now take the little vase containing the 
lightest tint, and with a very soft bristle-brush 
without a point take some of this flesh-colour, squeez- 
ing the brush with the fingers, and pick out the 
reliefs of the face; then take the vase containing 
the middle tint of the flesh-colour, and paint the 
middle tint of the face, hands, and body, when you 
paint a naked figure. Afterwards take the third 
vase of flesh-colour, and go to the edges of the 
shadows, but always taking care at the contours that 
the verde-terra should not lose its value, and in 
this manner keep on softening one flesh-tint into 
another, until it is all covered as well as the nature 
of the work will permit. But mind that if you 
would have your work appear very brilliant, be 
careful to keep each tint of colour in its place, 
except that with skill you soften one delicately into 
the other. But seeing others work and practising 
with your hand, will make you perceive better than 
seeing it merely written. When you have painted 
in these carnations, make from them a tint much 

62 The Book of the Art 

lighter indeed almost white, and use this above 
the eyebrows, on the relief of the nose, the tip of 
the chin, and the upper eyelids ; then take a sharp- 
pointed pencil of minever, and with pure white put 
in the whites of the eyes, and above the tip of the 
nose and a little on the fulness of the mouth (della 
proda della bocca), and so touch tenderly such lights. 
Then put a little black into another vase, and with 
a brush mark out the outlines of the eyes above 
the lights of the eyes, and make the nostrils of the 
nose, and the holes within the ear. Then put some 
dark sinopia into another vase, paint the under 
outline of the eyes, the contour of the nose, the 
brows and the mouth, and shade a little under the 
upper lip, which must be a little darker than the 
under. Before you finish these outlines thus, take 
the said brush and with verdaccio retouch the hair; 
then with the said brush, put on the lights of the 
hair with white, and with a watery wash of light 
ochre, and a soft bristle-brush, cover over the hair 
as you did the carnations. Mark out the extremities 
of the shadows with dark ochre, then with a small 
and very pointed pencil of minever put on the lights 
of the hair with bianco sangiovanni and light ochre. 
Retouch the outlines and extremities of the hair 
with sinopia as you did on the face, all over. And 
this is sufficient for you for a youthful face. 

of Cennino Cennini 63 

CHAP. 68, How to colour the face of an old person 
in fresco. 

When you wish to make the face of an old man, 
you must proceed in the same manner as in colouring 
the face of a young person, except that your verdaccio 
must be darker also the carnations observing 
exactly the same method as you did with the head 
of the young person, and also in the hands, feet, and 
body. But remember your old man must have his 
hair and beard grey. When you have put him in with 
verdaccio and white with your pointed pencil of 
minever, put into a small vase some bianco sangio- 
vanni and a little black mixed together, and liquid, 
and with a pencil of bristles without a point, and 
very soft, well squeezed, lay a ground-colour on the 
hair and beard ; then make this mixture a little 
darker, and pick out the shades; afterwards take a 
very small and pointed pencil of minever, and make 
the light hairs of the head and beard. And with 
such colours you can make fur. 

CHAP. 69. How to paint hair and beards of other 
sorts in fresco. 

When you would paint hair and beards of other 
hues, either red, or sandy, or black (o sanguigue, 
o rossette, o negre), or any other colour you please, 

6 4 The Book of the Art 

first make them in any case with verdaccio, and pick 
them out with white, and then lay on a flat colour in 
the usual mode, as above mentioned. Consider what 
colour you want, for the habit of seeing it will teach 
you how to do it. 

CHAP. 70. Of the proportions of the human figure. 

Take note that, before I proceed further, I will 
make you acquainted with the proportions of a man ; 
I omit those of a woman, because there is not one of 
them perfectly proportioned. First, as I have said 
before, the face is divided into three parts, namely, 
the forehead, one; the nose, another; and from the 
nose to the chin, the third; from the bridge of the 
nose through the whole length of the eye, one of 
these parts; from the corner of the eye right up to 
the ear, one of these parts; from one ear to the 
other, the length of one face; from the chin to the 
pit of the throat, one part; from the fork of the throat 
to the top of the shoulder, one face; and the other 
shoulder the same; from the shoulder to the elbow, 
one face; from the elbow to the (al uodo del/a mano) 
beginning of the hand, one face and one part; the 
whole length of the hand, one face; from the fork 
of the throat to the pit of the stomach, one face ; from 
the pit of the stomach to the navel, one face ; from the 
navel to the beginning of the thigh (nodo delta coscid), 

of Cennino Cennini 65 

one face ; from the thigh to the knee, two faces ; from 
the knee to the heel, two faces ; from the heel to the 
sole of the foot, one part ; the length of the foot, one 
face. The length of a man is equal to his width with 
the arms extended. The arm with the hand reaches 
to the middle of the thigh. The whole length of a 
man is eight faces and two of these measures. A 
man has on his left side one rib less than a woman. 
And all over the body there are bones. The hand- 
some man is dark, woman fair, &c. 

I shall not speak of irrational animals, because they 
appear to have no certain proportions. Draw them 
as frequently as you can from nature and you will 
see. And this requires much practice. 

CHAP. 71. How to colour drapery in fresco. 

Let us now return to colouring in fresco and on 
walls. If you wish to colour any drapery, you will 
design it first carefully (gentilmente} with your ver- 
daccio, and do not let your drawing show too much, 
but moderately. Then, whether you choose to make a 
white, or red, or yellow, or green drapery, or any 
colour you please, take three small vases. Take one 
and put into it any colour you please we will say 
red ; take some cinabrese, and a little bianco sangio- 
vanni, and this shall be one gradation of colour ; let 

it be thoroughly mixed with water. Of the other two 


66 The Book of the Art 

colours make one of a very light tint that is to say, 
put to it plenty of bianco sangiovanni. Now take 
some from the first vase and some of this light colour, 
and make a medium shade, and you will have three. 
Now take the first, that is, the dark shade, and with 
a large bristle-brush, a little pointed, go over the folds 
of the figure in the darkest places, but not exceeding 
half of the whole size of the figure. Then take the 
middle tint, lay on a flat colour from one dark fold 
to another, uniting them and softening them together, 
and softening the folds into the extremity of the 
shades ; then with this middle tint go picking out 
the dark on the lighted side of the figure, pre- 
serving carefully the shape of the nude. Then 
take the third, lightest, colour, and in the same 
manner in which you picked out and laid the flat 
tint on the folds of the shadow side, so do the folds 
on the light side, arranging the folds with grace, pro- 
priety, and taste. When you have laid on each colour 
two or three times (never forsaking the plan of the 
colouring nor suffering one tint to take the place of, 
or give place to another, or mix with it except where 
they unite), soften and blend them together. 1 Then 
put in another vase, some coloflr much lighter than 
the lightest of the three, and pick out and give relief 
to the top of the folds. Into another vase put pure 

1 Se non quando si vengono a congiugnere sfuma li e commette li 

of Cennino Cennini 67 

white, and put in finally the highest lights. After- 
wards with pure cinabrese go over the darkest places 
and round some outlines, and this is the way drapery 
is usually done. But by seeing others work, you 
will understand better than by reading. When you 
have finished your figures, or historical pieces, leave 
them so that the lime and colours shall dry thoroughly 
all over ; and if any drapery remain to be done when 
dry (in secco), you must proceed as follows. 

CHAP. 72. The manner of colouring walls in secco, 
and the proper temperas. 

Any of the colours used in painting in fresco may 
also be used in secco; but in fresco some colours 
cannot be used, as orpiment, cinnabar, azzurro della 
magna, minio, biacca, verderame, and lacca. 1 Those 
which may be used in fresco are giallorino, bianco 
sangiovanni, black, ochre, cinabrese, sinopia, verde- 
terra, and amatisto, 2 Colours used in fresco must be 
made lighter with bianco sangiovanni, and if you wish 
the greens to preserve their green tint, make them 
lighter with giallorino ; 3 when you would have them 
take the colour of sage, add bianco. Those colours 

1 King's yellow, vermilion, blue verditer, red lead, white lead, 
verdigris, and lake. 

2 Naples yellow, lime-white, black, yellow ochre, red ochre with lime, 
red ochre, terre verte, soft haematite. 

3 No Naples yellow (giallorino) known now is fit for fresco or any 
water-colour work. Cobalt blue and green oxide of chromium, and 
several whites, blacks, and ochres may be added to the list. 

68 The Book of the Art 

which cannot be used in fresco must be made lighter 
by the addition of biacca, giallorino, and sometimes 
orpiment, but orpiment is very rarely used; indeed 
I think it superfluous. To make a light blue, take 
three of the same kind of small vases as I directed 
you to use when speaking of the carnation tints and 
cinabrese, and prepare them in the same manner, 
except that where you then used bianco, you should 
now use biacca, and temper them all. Two sorts of 
tempera are good, but one is better than the other. 
The first tempera consists of the white and yolk of 
an egg, into which are put some cuttings of young 
shoots of a fig-tree ; beat them well together ; then 
add some of this tempera moderately, neither too much 
nor too little, to each of the vases, like mixing half 
wine with half water; then work with your colours, 
either white or green or red, as I directed you in 
fresco-painting; and you will proceed with your 
draperies in the same manner as you did in fresco, 
with a careful hand, waiting, however, till it (the 
plaster) is dry. If you use too much tempera, 
suddenly the colour will crack and peel off the wall. 
Be wise and skilful. Remember, before you begin 
to work, if you wish to make a drapery of lake, or 
of any other colour, take a clean sponge, and having 
mixed the white and yolk of an egg with about two 
porringers full of clean water, and mixed them well 
together, with the sponge squeezed half dry pass this 

of Cennino Cennini 69 

tempera over the whole of the space on which you 
have to paint in secco, and ornament in gold, and 
then colour freely as you please. The second kind 
of tempera is the yolk of the egg only ; and you must 
know that this tempera is of universal application on 
walls, on panels, and on iron, and you cannot use too 
much of it, but be wise, and take a middle course. 
Before we proceed further, I would have you paint 
a drapery in secco in the same manner as you did in 
fresco, with cinabrese. Now I will have you make 
one of ultramarine blue. Take the three vases as 
usual ; into the first put two parts azure and the third 
biacca; into the third, two parts biacca and one part 
azure : mix them and temper them as I have directed 
you. Then take the empty vase, that is to say, 
the second ; put into it an equal quantity from each 
of the others, and stir all well together with a hog's- 
bristle brush, or, if you like, a minever brush blunt 
and firm ; and with the first colour, that is to say 
the darkest, go round the outlines, marking out the 
darkest folds. Then take the middle colour and 
lay the flat tint of these dark folds, and mark out 
the light folds of the light side of the figure. Then 
take the third colour, and lay the flat tint of the 
light folds which come on the lighted side, and 
unite them with each other, softening and laying 
in the flat tints as I showed you how to do in 
fresco. Take the lightest colour, add to it some 

70 The Book of the Art 

biacca with tempera, and put on the high lights 
of the folds of the light part. Then take a little 
pure biacca, and retouch a few of the highest lights 
as the nude shape of the figure requires. Afterwards 
with pure ultramarine pick out the darkest folds and 
outlines, in this way retouching (leccando, lit. licking) 
the drapery according to its situation and colours, 
without soiling or mixing them one with another 
except to soften them. And in this manner use lake 
and all other colours with which you work in secco. 

CHAP. 73. To know how to make a purple colour 

If you would make a beautiful purple colour, take 
equal quantities of fine lake and ultramarine and 
temper them. Then take three little vases as above, 
and leave some of the purple colour to retouch the 
shades; and of the rest which you take out make 
three gradations of colour with which to colour the 
drapery, making each lighter than the other, as 
before directed. 

CHAP. 74. To make a purple (bisso) colour in fresco. 

If you would make a purple colour to use in 
fresco-painting, take indigo and amatisto and mix 
them without tempera as before mentioned, and 
make four shades. Then paint your drapery. 

of Cennino Cennini 71 

CHAP. 75. To counterfeit ultramarine azure when 
painting in fresco. 

To make a drapery in fresco like ultramarine, mix 
indigo with bianco sangiovanni, and make them into 
regular gradations of colour; then glaze in secco the 
extreme darks with ultramarine. 

CHAP. 76. To colour a drapery of a purple ormorello 
colour (pagonazzo over* morello) in fresco. 

If you would paint a drapery in fresco like lake, 
take amatisto and bianco sangiovanni, and mix your 
colours in shades as before, softening and uniting 
them together. Then in secco retouch the extreme 
shades with pure lake, tempered. 

CHAP. 77. To make a changing green drapery in 

If you would make a changing (rainbow-like, or 
shot) green drapery for an angel, lay a ground 
of two shades of carnation, one darker than the 
other, softening them well together. Then shade 
the dark part with ultramarine, and the lighter 
carnation tint shade with terra-verde, retouching 
them in secco. And remember that everything you 

72 The Book of the Art 

paint in fresco must be finished and retouched in 
secco with tempera. Put on the lights of the 
drapery in fresco, exactly as I directed you to do 
with other colours. 

CHAP. 78. To make a changing colour called cigner- 
ognolo in fresco. 

Take bianco sangiovanni and black, and make a 
minever colour (t.e. colour of grey squirrel) called 
cignerognolo (ash-colour). Lay some as the flat 
ground-colour, put on what lights you please with 
giallorino, and some with bianco sangiovanni. Put 
the shades on as you like with purple, or black, or 
dark green. 

CHAP. 79. To make a changing drapery of lake 
in secco. 

If you would make a changing drapery in secco, 
cover it with a flat tint of lake; use flesh-colour 
for the lights, or, if you will, giallorino. Glaze the 
dark parts as you like with pure lake, or purple 

(bisso), with tempera. 

of Cennino Cennini 73 

CHAP. 80. To make a changing drapery in fresco , or 
in secco, of ochre. 

To make a changing drapery of ochre either in 
fresco or in secco, cover with flat tints of ochre. 
Use bianco for the lights ; for the lighter shades, 
shade with green ; the darker, with black and sinopia, 
or, if you please, amatisto. 

CHAP. 8 1. To make a changing drapery of a drab 
(berettino) colour, in fresco or in secco. 

If you would make a drab drapery, take black 
and ochre; that is, two parts ochre and the third 
black. Make your gradations of colour as I have 
before taught you in fresco and in secco. 

CHAP. 82. To paint a drapery in fresco or in secco 
of a berettino colour ; like that of wood. 

If you would make a drapery the colour of wood, 
take ochre, black, and sinopia ; two parts ochre, 
and the other part black, and sinopia half the quantity 
of the ochre. With this make the gradations ot 
your colours, in fresco or in secco, or in distemper. 

74 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 83. To make a drapery of azzurro delta magna 
or ultramarine, or a mantle for the Virgin. 

If you would make a mantle for our Lady of azzurro 
della magna, or any other drapery that you wish to 
be of azure alone, first lay in fresco a ground on the 
mantle or drapery of sinopia and black, two parts 
sinopia and the third black, having previously marked 
out the finished drawing of folds, with an iron point 
or needle ; then " in secco " take azzurro della magna, 
well washed either with lye or with clean water, 
and grind it a very little on the stone. Then, if the 
blue is of a fine and full colour, add to it a little 
diluted glue, neither too strong nor too weak. Of 
this I shall hereafter speak. Again, put to the said 
azure a yolk of eggr ; but if the azzurro should be rather 
pale, it must be tempered with the yolk of country- 
laid eggs, which are very red-coloured; stir it well 
together with a soft hog's-hair brush, and pass it three 
or four times oven the drapery. 1 When the ground 
is well covered and dry, with a little indigo and black 
shade the folds of the mantle as well as you can, 
returning many times over the shades with the point 
of the brush. If you would make it lighter on the 
knees or any other part, scrape to the pure blue with 
the handle of the brush. If you lay a ground on a 
drapery with ultramarine, temper it in the usual way 

1 It is not quite clear from the Italian whether the yolk is added 
to the size just mentioned or is used separately. 

of Cennino Cennini 75 

given for azzurro della magna, and lay on two or three 
coats of it. To shade the folds, take fine lake and a 
little black, tempered with the yolk of an egg. Shade 
them as tenderly as you can and very neatly, first with 
a little of this lake and afterwards with the point, 1 and 
make as few folds as you can, because ultramarine 
does not like the neighbourhood of other mixtures. 

CHAP. 84. To make a black drapery, like that of 
a monk or friar , in fresco and in secco. 

If you would paint a black drapery of a monk 
or friar, take pure black, making your gradations of 
colour as I before directed you, in fresco and in 
secco, with tempera. 

CHAP. 85. A good way of colouring a mountain in 
fresco or in secco. 

If you wish to make mountains in fresco or in 
secco, make verdaccio, one part of black, and two 
parts of ochre. Make your gradations in fresco 
with bianco, without tempera; and in secco use 
biacca with tempera; and give them form, as to a 
figure with darks and lights. And when you have 
to paint mountains which appear at a distance, make 
your colours darker; and if you would have them 
seem nearer, let your colours be lighter. 

1 The meaning is not very clear. 

76 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 86. How to colour trees, plants, and grass, 
in fresco and in secco. 

If you would embellish these mountains with 
groves of trees and grass, first paint the trunk of 
the tree with pure black, which cannot be well done 
in fresco; then make some of the leaves of dark 
green or verde - azzurro (verde -terra is not good 
for this purpose) and let the foliage be well painted 
and dense; make a lighter green with giallorino, and 
let your leaves be smaller as you come towards the 
top of the tree. Touch the lights on the top with 
giallorino alone, and the trees and foliage will 
appear in relief; but first when you have painted 
the trees with black at the base, and also a few 
of the branches, let leaves shoot above, and then 
put the fruits, and scatter a few flowers and birds 
on the green grass. 

CHAP. 87. How to colour buildings in fresco and in 

If you would make buildings (casamenti), set them 
out in your design of any size you please, and stretch 
threads. Put them in first with verdaccio, or terra- 
verde, either in fresco or in secco, but let the colour 
be very liquid ; some you may make purple, and some 

of Cennino Cennini 7? 

cignerognolo (grey), some green, some drab (berettiiw, 
or wood-coloured), or any colour you please. Then 
make a long thin straight lath, one of the edges of 
which should be scooped out so as not to touch the 
wall, lest this should be spoiled by the passing over it 
and the rubbing of the brush and colours ; and you 
will paint these cornices with great pleasure and de- 
light. And in the same manner paint bases, columns, 
capitals, porticos, garlands of flowers, altar decora- 
tions, and the whole art of mazzoneria, 1 which is 
a noble part of our art, and must be done with 
great delight. And remember that the same rules 
of light and shade which apply to figures, must 
be observed here with regard to these matters, and 
always apply this rule to buildings; that the cornice 
which you make at the top of the house on the 
shadow side must incline downwards; the middle 
cornice of the building facing you must be quite 
equal and even ; and the cornice (plinth ?) at the 
base of the building must ascend in a direction 
contrary to that at the top of the building, which 

1 Mazonneria was anciently the art of making ornaments in relief, 
coloured and gilt, on panel pictures French mafonnerie. See 
Milanesi's glossary to Italian edition. 

78 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 88. How to draw a mountain from nature 

If you wish to draw mountains well, so that they 
appear natural, procure some large stones, rocky and 
not polished, and draw from these, giving them lights 
and shades as the same rule guides you. 

CHAP. 89. How to paint in oil on walls, panels, iron, 
or whatever you please. 

Before we proceed further, I will teach you to paint 
in oil on walls, or on panels, which is much practised 
by the Germans, and in the same way on iron or 
stone. But we will first speak of walls. 

CHAP. 90. How to begin painting in oil on walls. 

Cover your wall with plaster, exactly as you would 
do when painting in fresco ; except that where you 
then covered but a small space at a time, you are 
now to spread it over your whole work. Make your 
design with charcoal, and fix it with ink or verdaccio, 
tempered. Then take a little glue, much diluted with 
water a whole egg, well beaten in a porringer, with 
the milky juice of the fig-tree, is a still better tempera 
you must add to the said egg a glassful of clean 

of Cennino Cennini 79 

water. Then, either with a sponge or a very soft 
brush without a point, go once over the whole ground 
on which you are going to paint, and leave it to dry 
for one day at least. 

CHAP. 91. How to make oil fit for tempering 
colours, and also for mordants, by boiling over 
the fire. 

It will be very useful to you to know how to pre- 
pare this oil, for many things that are done ; therefore, 
take one, two, three, or four pounds of linseed oil, 
and put it into a new pipkin ; if it is glazed, so much 
the better. Make a small furnace, and make a round 
hole, into which the pipkin fits exactly, so that the 
flame may not reach it, because the fire easily catches 
it, and there would be danger to the oil, and also of 
burning the house. When you have made your fur- 
nace, put a moderate fire in it; and the more slowly 
your oil boils, the better and more perfect will it be. 
Let it boil until it is reduced to half the quantity. 
But to prepare mordants, when it is reduced to half 
the quantity, add to each pound of oil one ounce of 
liquid varnish (yernice liquida), and let it be very 
fine and clear: and oil thus prepared is good for 

8o The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 92. How to prepare good and perfect oil by 
cooking it in the sun. 

When you have prepared this oil (which is also 
cooked in another way, better for painting, but not 
for mordants, for which it must be done on the 
fire, that is, cooked), take your linseed oil, and in 
summer-time put it in a basin of bronze or copper. 
And in August (guando e il sole leone) place it in the 
sun ; and if you keep it there till it is half wasted, it 
will be exactly right for mixing with colours. And 
you must know that, in Florence, I have found the 
finest and best that there can be. 

CHAP. 93. How to grind colours in oil and to use 
them on walls. 

Let us return to grinding the colours. Begin and 
grind colour by colour, as you did when working in 
fresco, except that where you then ground them with 
water, you must now grind them with oil. And when 
you have ground them, that is to say all the colours, 
(for every colour can be mixed with oil except bianco 
sangiovanni), provide small vessels, either of lead or 
of tin, into which put these colours. And if you 
cannot find such, get glazed vessels, and put the 
ground colours into them ; put them in a box, that 
they may keep clean. When you would paint a drapery 

of Cennino Cennini 81 

with three gradations of colour, as I have previously 
taught you, divide the space, and let each colour be 
laid in its proper place with a minever brush, uniting 
one colour well with another, the colours being very 
stiff. Then stop for a few days and return again to 
your work, see how the paint covers, and repaint 
where necessary. And in this way paint flesh or 
anything you please ; and in this way mountains, trees, 
and every other work. Provide a vessel of tin or 
lead (something like a lamp), about the height of your 
finger, half fill it with oil, and keep your brushes in 
it that they may not dry. 

CHAP. 94. How to paint in oil on iron, on panels y and 
on stone. 

And in the same manner you may work o iron, on 
stone, or on any panel, always sizing first, and also 
on glass or on anything you please. 

CHAP. 95. How to adorn walls with gold or with 

Having now taught you how to paint in fresco, in 
secco, and in oil, I will tell you how to embellish walls 
with gilded tin, white tin, and fine gold, and take 
especial notice that you use as little silver as possible, 
because it does not last, and becomes black on walls 

82 The Book of the Art 

and on wood, but loses its colour quickest on walls. 
Use instead of it beaten tin, or tin plates. Beware 
also of alloyed gold (pro di meta) which quickly turns 

CHAP. 96. Showing that you should always make a 
habit of working with fine gold and good colours. 

It is usual to adorn walls with gilded tin, because it 
is less expensive than gold. Nevertheless, I give you 
this advice, that you endeavour to adorn always with 
fine gold and good colours, particularly in the figures 
of our Lady. And if you say that a poor person cannot 
afford the expense, I answer that if you work well and 
give time to your work, and good colours, you will 
acquire so much fame, that a rich person will come to 
you to pay for the poor one; and your name will 
stand so high for using good colours, that if some 
masters receive one ducat for painting a figure, you 
will be offered two, and your wishes will be fulfilled ; 
according to the old proverb, 2 good work, good pay. 
And whenever you should not be well paid, God and 

our Lady will reward your soul and body for it. 


1 Silver and alloyed gold such as white gold, which is a very beautiful 
alloy, can be protected with " fine silver varnish " (see p. 262, note 2). 
3 Chi grossamente lavora, grossamente guadagna. 

of Cennino Cennini 83 

CHAP. 97. In what manner you should cut gilded tin 
and ornament with it} 

When you ornament anything with tin, either white 
or gilded, and have to cut it with a knife, first procure 
a smooth plank of walnut, pear, or plum tree, not too 
thin, cut square each way like a sheet of paper (called) 
reale. Then take some liquid varnish, cover the 
board with it, and lay your piece of tin upon it, well 
spread and smooth. Then cut it with a knife very 
sharp at the point, and with a ruler cut off a strip the 
width you intend to make your fringes (fregt, borders ?) 
either only tin, or wide enough to adorn them with 
black or other colours. 

CHAP. 98. How to make green tin for ornaments. 

Again, in order to embellish these fringes (borders ?) 
you may take verderame ground with linseed oil, and 
spread it over a sheet of white tin, and it will be a 
beautiful green. Let it dry in the sun, then spread it 
out upon a plank with varnish; then cut it with a 
knife; or if you would first stamp it with rosettes or 
other fair devices, anoint the plank with liquid varnish, 
and put your rosettes upon it, then fix them to the 
wall. Again, if you would make stars of fine gold, or a 

1 The use of tin covered with a yellow varnish was very common. 
The earliest directions for it are in the Lucca MS. But here the tin is 
gilt to imitate plates of solid metal. 

8 4 The Book of the Art 

diadem for saints, or ornaments with the knife, in the 
manner I have shown you, you must first put fine gold 
upon gilded tin. 

CHAP. 99. How to make gilded tin, and how fine gold 
is laid on with gold size (doraturd). 

Gilded tin is prepared in this manner. Have a very 
smooth plank, three or four braccia long, grease it with 
fat or with tallow. Put some white tin on it ; then 
put a liquor called gold size (doraturd) upon the tin in 
three or four places, a very little in each place; and 
with the palm of your hand pat the tin, spreading the 
gold size equally, as much in one place as in another. 
Let it dry in the sun. When it is almost dry, but 
still a very little sticky, take the fine gold, and put the 
pieces on in order, and cover the tin with this fine gold. 
Polish it with clean cotton ; stick the tin to the plank, 
and when you would make use of it, apply with liquid 
varnish, and make stars or any ornaments you please, 
as you did with gilded tin. 

CHAP. 100. How to make and cut stars and fix them 
on walls. 1 


You must first cut out all the stars with a ruler, and 
when you are going to put them on, first put over the 

1 Gilt stars in a blue vault are a Byzantine decoration in pictures and 
in buildings which lasted to quite a late period. Many examples may 
be seen in Siena. 

of Cennino Cennini 85 

azure, where the star is coming, a lump of wax, and 
work the star in rays, as you have cut them out in the 
plank. And you must know that in this way you can 
do much more work with less fine gold, than by putting 
it on with mordants. 

CHAP. 101. In what manner this tin overlaid with 
gold can be used for the diadems (perhaps glories) 
of saints on walls. 

If you would make the diadems of saints without 
mordants, when you have coloured the figures in fresco 
take a needle and scrape (indent a line) around the 
contour of the head. Then, in secco, spread varnish 
upon the diadem, put on it the gilded tin that is over- 
laid with fine gold; then spread the varnish over it, 
pat it with the palm of your hand, and you will see all 
the marks made by the needle. With a well-sharpened 
knife-point, gently cut away the loose gold, and keep it 
for your other work. 

CHAP. 1 02. How to raise a glory with lime on 

You must know that a gioiry (again diadema) must 
be raised with a small trowel on the fresh mortar in 
this manner. When you have drawn the head of the 
figure, take the compasses and make the glory. Then 

86 The Book of the Art 

take a little very rich lime, worked like paste or oint- 
ment, and spread it over thickly in the further parts, 
but thinner near the head. Then take the compasses 
again, when you have smoothed the lime well, and 
with the knife cut away the lime above the line of the 
compasses, and it will remain raised. Then have a 
strong thin stick of wood, and indent the rays round 
the glory, and this is the way you are to do it on walls. 

CHAP. 103. How, after painting on walls, we arrive 
at painting panels. 

When you do not choose to adorn your figures with 
tin, you must use mordants. Of these I shall treat fully 
hereafter, in their order; as to which can be used 
on panels, on glass, on iron, and every other thing; 
which are strong, and capable of withstanding air, 
wind and water; which require to be varnished, and 
which not. 

But let us return to our colouring, and from walls 
proceed to panels, which are the neatest and pleasantest 
part of our art. And remember, that he who learns to 
paint first on walls, and then on panels, does not 
become so perfect a master of the art, as when he 
happens to learn to paint on panels first, and then on 

of Cennino Cennini 87 

CHAP. 104. In what manner the art of painting 
pictures should be acquired. 

Know that you cannot learn to paint in less time 
than thus. In the first place, you must study drawing 
for at least one year, 1 on tablets; then you must 
remain with a master at the workshop, who under- 
stands working in all parts of the art; you must 
begin with grinding colours, and learn to boil down 
glues, to acquire the practice of laying grounds on 
panels, to work in relief upon them; and to rub 
them smooth and to gild ; to engrave well ; and this 
for six years; afterwards to practise colouring, to 
adorn with mordants, to make cloths of gold, and 
to be accustomed to paint on walls, for six more 
years, always drawing without intermission either 
on holidays or workdays. And so, through long habit, 
good practice becomes a second nature. Adopting 
other habits, do not hope ever to attain great perfec- 
tion. There are many who say they have learned 
the art without having been with a master. Do not 
believe them, for I give you this very book as 

1 The first year was a preliminary trial. If the master was satisfied 
at the end of that time, the boy was bound to him for twelve years. 
In the later years of the apprenticeship the lad's earnings helped to 
pay for his board and lodging. The pupil was sworn never to divulge 
the secrets of the art until he became a master himself, when he was 
allowed to teach his own pupils, first binding them to secrecy (Ancient 
Practice of Painting, I. cxviii.). See also Sienese Statute) Carteggio 
inedito (Gaye), Vol. II. 

88 The Book of the Art 

example : even studying it day and night, if you do 
not see some practice with some master, you will 
never be fit for anything, nor will you be able with 
a good face to stay among the masters. 

CHAP. 105. How to make paste (colla di pasta over 9 
angola, i.e. glue of flour or chestnut flour?)* 

Beginning to paint pictures (panels) in the name of 
the most Holy Trinity, and always invoking this 
name, and that of the glorious Virgin Mary, we must 
first prepare a foundation, and this is made with 
various kinds of glue. There is a cement made of 
boiled flour which is used by paper (or parchment) 
makers (cartolart) and the masters who make books, 
and is proper to fasten paper * (or parchment) together, 
and also to fix tin upon parchment. It is also 
used sometimes when paper is to be glued together 
for making transfer patterns. 2 This paste is made in 
the following manner. Fill a pipkin almost full of 
clean water, and make it very hot. When it is just 
going to boil, shake some fine flour, a little at a time, 
into the pipkin, stirring it continually with a small 
stick or spoon ; make it boil, but do not make it too 

1 It is not possible to know certainly whether parchment or paper is 
meant when, as here, the word carta is used alone. 

2 Parchment for patterns (patrons) is frequently mentioned in English 
cathedral accounts. 

of Cennino Cennini 89 

thick. Pour it out and put it into a porringer. If 
you wish it not to go bad, add some salt, and use it 
when you want it 

CHAP. 1 06. How to make giue for fastening .stones 

There is a cement proper for glueing stones, and 
this is made of mastic, new wax, and pounded stone, 
strained and well tempered together over the fire. 
First clean your stone, then heat it and apply the 
glue. It will withstand air and water, and is used 
to fasten grindstones and millstones. 

CHAP. 107. How to make cement for joining glass 

There is a cement proper for joining broken glasses 
or jugs, or other beautiful vases of Damascus or 
Majolica. This is made of liquid varnish, a little 
white lead, and a little verdigris. Put in it some 
of the same colour as the glass ; if it is blue add a 
little indigo; if green, add more verdigris, et sic de 
singulis. Take the pieces of your broken vase or 
drinking-glasses, and though they be in a thousand 
pieces, join them together with this glue, putting it 
on thinly; and if you let them dry for the space of 
some months in the sun aud wind, you will find 

90 The Book of the Art 

these vases stronger and better able to keep out 
the water where they are pieced than where they 
are whole. 

CHAP. loS.ffow fish-glue is to be used and dis- 

There is a glue called fish-glue (colla di pesce, isin- 
glass). This is prepared from many kinds of fish. 
If you put a piece of this to your mouth as long as 
is necessary, and then rub a little on your sheepskin 
parchment, or other parchment, it will fasten them 
strongly together. When dissolved, it makes a good 
and most excellent cement for lutes, or other delicate 
works of parchment (or paper, carta), wood, and 
bone. When you put it over the fire, add for each 
piece of glue half a glass of clean water. 

CHAP. log.ffow colla di caravella is made, how 
tempered, and for what purposes used. 

There is a glue called colla di spicchi, which is 
made of the clippings of the muzzles of goats, feet, 
sinews, and many clippings of tbe skins. This glue 
is made in January or March during the great ,cold 
or high winds, and is boiled with an equal quantity 
of water until it is reduced one-half; then pour it 
into flat vessels, such as saucers for jelly, or basins. 

of Cennino Cennini 91 

Let it remain one night; the next morning cut it in 
slices, like bread, with a knife ; put the pieces on rush- 
mats to dry in the wind, without sun, and it will 
become excellent glue. This glue is used by painters, 
by saddlers, and by many masters, as I shall thereafter 
tell you. It is good glue for wood, and many other 
things, of which we shall treat fully when showing 
how it is to be used, and in what manner for plaster, 
in tempering colours, making lutes, in inlaid works 
(tarsie\ also to fasten wood, and the leaves (of books), 
in tempering plaster, in working with plaster in relief, 
and it is useful for many things. 

CHAP. no. A perfect glue (size) for tempering the 
gesso for panels (pictures). 

There is a glue made from waste of sheep and 
goat parchment, and from the clippings of this parch- 
ment. These are to be well washed, and put to soak 
for the space of one day before they are boiled down. 
Boil them till the quantity of water is reduced to one- 
third part ; and I wish that, when you have no colla 
di spicchi, you should use this only for mixing with 
the gessos for your panels, and it is impossible any- 
where to find better. 

92 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. in. Glue proper for tempering azures and 
other colours. 

There is a glue (size) made from the scrapings of 
goat and sheep parchment. Let it boil in clean water 
until the water is reduced to about a third in quantity. 
It makes a glue as clear as crystal, and is good for 
tempering dark blues ; and if you should have laid a 
ground tint of any colour not properly tempered, give 
it a coat of this size and it tempers the colours again, 
and fixes them ; you may varnish them if you please 
when used on pictures, and also blues on walls. This 
size is also good for mixing with grounds ; but it is 
naturally thin, and (unsuitable for) plaster which is 
to be afterwards gilded, (for this) must have more 

CHAP. 1 12. To make a glue of lime and cheesed 

There is a glue used by workers in wood which is 
made of cheese put into water to soften. Rub it 
down with a wooden pestle with both hands, adding 
a little quicklime. Apply it to the boards you wish 
to join, unite them, and fix them well together. And 
this is sufficient for you for making the different kinds 
of glue. 

1 Cheese and lime glue was much used for joining wood. It is quite 
insoluble in water. The cheese should be well washed. This glue 
is mentioned in the Lucca MS. and by Theophilus. 

of Cennino Cennini 


CHAP. 113. How to begin to paint pictures. 

Now we are really going to paint pictures. In 
the first place, a panel must be prepared of the 
wood of the poplar, which is very good (ben gentile), 
or lime-tree, or willow. Begin with the flat surface 
of the picture; if it is defaced with knots, or if it 
is greasy, you must cut it away as far as the grease 
extends, for there is no other remedy. Take care 
that the wood is very dry ; and if it is such a piece 
that you can boil in a cauldron of clean water, the 
wood will never do you the ill turn of splitting. Let 
us now return to the knots or any other defects in 
the flat surface of the panel. Take some size (colla 
di spicchi) and about a glassful of clean water, melt 
and boil two pieces (spicchi) in a pipkin free from 
grease; then put in a porringer some sawdust, and 
knead it into the glue; fill up the defects or knots 
with the wooden spatula, and let it dry. Then 
scrape smooth with a knife-point to level the surface. 
Examine if there is any nail, or other thing, that 
renders the panel uneven, and knock it well into 
the wood ; then take glue and pieces of tin, beaten 
like quattrini (small pieces of money), and cover 
over the iron with them. And this is done that 
the rust of the iron may never rise through the 
ground. The flat surface of the panel must never 
be too much smoothed. Boil some glue made of 

94 The Book of the Art 

shavings of sheep parchment till the water is reduced 
to one-third of what it was at first. Feel with the 
palms of the hands, and when you feel one hand 
stick to the other, it is sufficiently boiled. Strain 
it two or three times. Put half this glue into a 
pipkin, add a third part of water, and make it very 
hot. Then with a hog's-hair brush, large and soft, 
pass a coat of the glue over the panel and carved 
foliage or pyxes (civort) 1 or columns, or whatever 
you work upon, that is to be covered with gesso, 
and let it dry. Then take some of your first strong 
glue (size), and pass it twice over your work, letting 
it dry well between each coat of glue (size), and it 
will be properly sized. Do you know the effect 
of the first glue ? It is merely a weaker liquor, 
and just as if when fasting, you eat a few comfits 
and drank a glass of good wine, which gives you 
an appetite for dinner. Such is this size; it adapts 
the wood for taking the size and grounds. 

CHAP. 114. How to fasten linen on panels. 

Having thus applied the size, get some linen 
cloth, old, fine, and white, and free from all grease. 
Take your best size, cut or tear large or small strips 
of this linen, soak these in the size, and spread them 

1 Milanesi considers that civori means the pinnacle-work of the 
upper part of the framing of altar-pieces. 

of Cennino Cennini 95 

with your hands over the surface of the panel ; 
remove the seams, and spread the strips out with 
the palms of the hands, and leave them to dry for 
two days. And remember it is best to use size when 
the weather is dry and windy. Size is stronger in 
the winter than in summer, and in winter gilding 
must be done in damp and rainy weather. 

CHAP. 115. How to lay grounds of gesso grosso 
on the flat surface of a picture with a spatula 
(stecca, float?}. 

When the panel is quite dry, take the point of a 
knife like a file (inella, rasp?) which rasps well, 
and search over the surface to find any little knots, 
or any seams, and remove them. Then take some 
gesso grosso, that is to say volteranno (plaster of 
Paris) purified (purgato) and sifted like flour. Put a 
porringer-full on the porphyry slab, grind it well 
with this size by hand as you would grind colours, 
collect it with a spatula, and put it on the surface 
of the panel, and with a very smooth and rather 
large spatula (steccd) cover the whole surface, and 
whenever you can use the spatula, do so. Then 
take some of this ground plaster (gesso), warm it, 
take a soft hog's-hair brush and give it a coat on 
the cornices and foliage, as on the even surface 
with the spatula. Give three or four coats on the 

96 The Book of the Art 

other parts of the cornices; but on the level parts 
you cannot put on too much. Leave it to dry 
for two or three days. Then take the iron rasp 
(mesella) and scrape the flat surface; procure some 
small iron tools, which are called raffiette, such as 
you will find at the painters' ; there are several kinds 
of them. Pick out all the cornices and foliage if 
not well done, that they may not be choked up, and 
generally take care that all defects of the flat surface 
or cornices are remedied by this grounding of plaster. 

CHAP. 1 1 6. How to prepare gesso sot tile (slaked 
plaster of Paris] for grounding panels. 

You must now prepare a plaster for fine grounds, 
called gesso sottile. This is made from the same 
plaster as the last, but it must be well purified 
(furgatd), and kept moist in a large tub for at least 
a month ; renew the water every day until it almost 
rots, and is completely slaked, and all fiery heat 
goes out of it, and it becomes as soft as silk. 
Throw away the water, make it into cakes, and 
let it dry; and this gesso is sold by the druggists 
to our painters. 1 It is used for 'grounding, for gilding, 
for working in relief, and other fine works. 

1 To make sure that the plaster cannot set, about a gallon of water 
must be put to each pound of plaster. When ready, the water can be 
strained off through a tammy or linen sieve. 

of Cennino Cennini 97 

CHAP. 117. How a panel is grounded with gesso 
sottile, and how it is to be tempered. 

Having laid on the gesso grosso, rubbed it smooth, 
and levelled it well and delicately, take some of this 
gesso sottile, and put it cake by cake into a pipkin 
of clean water, and let it absorb as much as it will. 
Put it little by little on the porphyry slab, and with- 
out adding any more water to it, grind it perfectly- 
Put it then on a piece of linen cloth, strong and 
white, and go on till you have as much as a loaf, 
then fold it up in this cloth, and wring it well to 
get as much water out as possible. When you 
have ground as much of it as you want, for you 
must consider what quantity you will want, that 
you may neither have to make two portions 01 
tempered plaster, nor to throw away any good 
plaster, take some of the same size with which you 
tempered the gesso grosso. You must make sufficient 
at one time to temper both kinds of gesso. The 
gesso sottile requires less tempering than the gesso 
grosso ; the reason ? that the gesso grosso is the 
foundation of all your work, and you must also 
reflect, that howsoever much you press the gesso 
sottile a little water will still remain in it. For this 
reason, diligently make the same size for both. 
Take a new pipkin which is free from grease, and 

98 The Book of the Art 

if it is glazed, so much the better. Take a cake 
of this gesso sottile and scrape it fine with a knife, 
as you would cheese, and put it into the pipkin. 
Put some of the size on it and work the gesso 
with the hand, as you would a paste for making 
fritters, smoothly and dexterously, so that it may 
not froth at all. Have a cauldron of water, and 
make it very hot, and put into it the pipkin 'con- 
taining the tempered gesso. This will keep the 
gesso warm, and it will not boil ; for if it should 
boil it would be spoiled. When it is warm, take 
your panel, and with a large and very soft brush 
of hog's bristles, dip in the pipkin and take some in 
moderate quantity, neither too much nor too little, 
and spread it evenly over the level surfaces, the 
cornices, and the carved foliage. It is true that in 
doing this the first time you should spread and rub 
the gesso with your fingers and hand, round and 
round, and this will incorporate the gesso grosso 
with the gesso sottile. When you have done this, 
begin again, and lay on one coat with the brush 
without rubbing it in with the hand. Let it rest 
a little, but not so as to dry thoroughly; then go 
over again in the other direction also with the brush, 
and let it dry as usual, then give another coat in 
the reverse direction; and in this manner, always 
keeping your gesso warm, give the flat surfaces 
eight coats at least. Foliage- and other reliefs do 

of Cennino Cennini 99 

with less, but you cannot pOt too much on the 
flat. This is on account of the rasping or rubbing 
down, which is done next. 

CHAP. 1 1 8. How to prepare grounds of gesso sottile^ 
not having previously laid on a ground with 
gesso grosso. 

Small and delicate works may, as I told you before, 
be sized two or three times, and then give them as 
many coats of gesso sottile only as you find from 
experience they will require. 

C^AP. 119. How to tunper and grind gesso sottile 
for working in relief. 

There are, nevertheless, some persons who grind 
gesso sottile with water and size. This is proper 
for grounds where no gesso grosso 1 is used, which 
required to be more tempered. This same kind of 
gesso is good for raising foliage and other works in 
relief, which frequently 'has to be done. But when 
you are going to execute works in relief with this 
gesso, add to it enough Armenian bole to give it a 
little colour. 

ioo The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 1 20. How to begin to smooth the surf ace of a 
panel grounded with gesso sottile. 

When you have finished laying the ground, which 
must be done in one day, even if you work at it in 
the night, to allow the necessary intervals of time, 
let it dry without sun for two days and nights at 
least. The longer you let it dry the better. Tie 
some powdered charcoal like a ball in a piece of 
linen, and powder it over the ground of the picture. 
Then with a bunch of feathers of a hen or goose, 
spread this black powder equally over the ground. 
And this is because the surface cannot be scraped 
too perfectly, and because the iron tool with which 
you scrape the surface is flat also. Where you 
remove the surface the ground will be as white as 
milk. Then you will see whether it requires more 

CHAP. 121. How to scrape gesso sottile on the flat 
surface, and of what use the scraping is. 

Take a flat raffietto, about as wide as a finger, and 
gently go all round the surface, of the cornice once ; 
then with a sharp rasp (or rough file), with as 
straight an edge as possible, scrape over the flat 
surface of the panel with a very light hand, not grasp- 
ing the rasp at all tight, and brushing away the loose 

of Cennino Cennini 101 

gesso with the bunch of feathers. And know that 
this dust is excellent for removing grease from the 
pages of books. In the Sjame manner rub smooth 
the cornices and foliage, and polish them as if they 
were ivory. And sometimes, through haste and much 
work, you may polish cornices and foliage, by rubbing 
them with a piece of linen, first wetted and then 
squeezed almost dry. 

CHAP. 122. How you should first draw on the 
panels with charcoal, and fix your outlines 
with ink. 

Having well scraped the ground, and made it like 
ivory, the first thing you should do is to draw on your 
panel with those sticks of willow charcoal which I 
previously taught you to make. But you must fasten 
the charcoal to a stick about the length of your face, 
which is a help in composing. Have a feather ready, 
that when any stroke appears to you to be badly 
drawn, you may efface it with the feather, and draw 
it again. Draw with a light hand, and shade the folds 
and the faces as you did with the brush or with the 
pen in making a pen-and-ink drawing. When you 
have finished drawing your figures, especially if the 
picture be of great value, and you expect gain and 
honour from it, leave it for a day, return many times 
to examine it, and improve it where there is. need. 

102 The Book of the Art 

When it appears to you correctly drawn, and you 
can copy from or look at things done by other good 
masters, which is no shame to you if the figure is 
good, gently rub away the charcoal with the feather 
from the design, so that it may be just seen, but not 
too much, lest you should not understand your design. 
Put a few drops of ink into a glass half full of water, 
and with a pointed minever brush mark over the 
outline of your design. Then with the feather part 
of rthe pen, brush away the charcoal. With some more 
of the ink, and a flat-pointed minever brush, shade any 
fold and any shaded part of the face, and you will 
have made an agreeable design, which will cause all 
men to fall in love with your works. 

CHAP. 123. How you should indicate the outlines of 
the figures when you are going to make a gold 

When you have sketched your design/on the panel, 
have a needle fixed into a small stick and engrave 
the outlines of the figure which come against the 
background which you are going to cover with gold, 
also the borders which you intend to make on the 
figures, and certain draperies, which are to be of 
cloth of gold. 

of Cennino Cennini 103 

CHAP. 124. How works in relief are executed on 
panels with gesso sottile } and how precious stones 
are affixed to them, 

Besides this, take some of the same gesso for reliefs, 
if you Would raise ornaments or foliage, or fix precious 
stones to certain ornaments (fregi, borders ?) belong- 
ing to the figure of God the Father, or to Our Lady, 
or certain other ornaments which embellish your 
work, and which are stones of various coloured 
glass. Arrange them with judgment, having your 
gesso in a vessel upon some hot ashes, and another 
vessel of hot water, because you must wash your brush 
frequently; and this brush, must be of minever, the 
hairs fine and rather long. Take a little of the gesso 
on the point of the. brush, and with that quickly raise 
whatever figures you wish to make in relief; and if 
you raise any foliage, draw the design previously 
like the figures, and be careful not to relieve too 
many things, or confusedly, for the clearer you make 
your foliage ornaments, the better will you be able 
to display the ingraining with stamps, and they can 
be better burnished with the stone. There are some 
masters who, having relieved all they wish, give one 
or two coats of the gesso which they have used for 
the ground of the picture, that is, of gesso sottile, 
with a soft, small bristle-brush. But if you relieve 

io 4 The Book of the Art 

but little, it appears to me that it will be better, 
firmer, and safer work without this further applica- 
tion, for the reason I have before given you, not 
to use different kinds of tempered gesso on the same 

CHAP. 125. How to make casts in relievo work, to 
adorn some parts of the picture. 

As we are talking about relief work, I will tell you 
a few things. With the same kind of gesso, or made 
with more size, you may cast a head of a lion or other 
shapes modelled in earth or in chalk. Oil the mould 
with lamp-oil (olio da brucciare), fill it with the gesso 
well tempered, and let it cool thoroughly ; then remove 
the gesso with the point of a knife and blow upon it 
hard. It will come out quite clean ; let it dry. Then 
in any ornamenting use the same gesso which you 
grounded and relieved with, first oiling the part with 
the brush where the head is to be fixed, then press it 
with the finger and it will stick properly. Afterwards 
with a minever brush lay a coat or two of the same 
gesso on the parts in relief, pressing with the finger 
on the cast figure and it will please you. Afterwards 
feel over with the knife-point, and if there are any 
little lumps, remove them. 

of Cennino Cennini 105 

CHAP. 126. How to plaster (smaltare) on relievos 
on walls. 

I shall also teach you how to raise designs in relief 
on walls. In the first place, there are certain parts 
of the wall that are either embossed or carved with 
foliage, on which the plaster cannot be spread with 
a trowel. Take some lime and sand, both well sifted, 
put them in a basin, and with a large bristle-brush, 
make them into a paste with water, and apply several 
coats of this plaster with the same brush on these 
places. Then smooth the parts with the trowel, and 
the plastering is done. You may paint on it in 
fresco or in secco, as I directed you when speaking 
of fresco-painting. 

CHAP. 127. How to make reliefs in lime on walls 
like the reliefs of gesso on panels. 

Again, with the before-mentioned lime, ground a 
little on the stone; you can make what you please 
in relief on the walls, as I have told you to do with 
regard to panels, that is, on the fresh lime and 

106 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 1 28. How reliefs may be taken from a stone 
mould, and how they may be used on walls. 

You may also have a stone cut with any devices 
you please, and grease the design with lard or tallow. 
Get some beaten tin, and lay moist tow over the tin 
and lay that over the engraved stone, and beat as 
hard as you can with a mallet of willow. Then 
have some gesso grosso, ground up with size, and 
with the spatula fill up the moulds with it ; you may 
use them to adorn walls, coffers, stone, and anything 
you please ; then apply the mordant over the tin, 
and when it is a little tacky, cover it with fine gold. 
When dry attach it to the wall with ship-pitch. 

CHAP. 129. How to execute reliefs on walls with 

You may also relieve on walls in this manner: 
Mix liquid varnish with flour, and grind them well 
together, and execute your reliefs with a pointed 
minever brush. . 

CHAP. 1 30. How to execute reliefs on walls ivitli wax. 

In the same manner you may also make reliefs on 
walls with melted wax and with ship-pitch melted 
together, two parts wax and the third pitch. Make 
the reliefs with a brush, and let it be warm. 

of Cennino Cenhini 107 

CHAP. 131. How to lay bole on panels, and how to 
temper it. 

Let us return to our subject When you have 
finished the reliefs of your picture, get some Armenian 
bole, and take it of good quality. Touch your under- 
lip with it; if it sticks to it, it is good. You must 
now learn the best tempera for gilding. Put the 
white of an egg into a very clean glazed basin. 1 Take 
a broom of twigs cut equal, and as if you beat 
spinach, that is, beating it very fine, so beat up 
the white of egg with it till the basin is full of 
thick froth, which appears like snow. Then take 
a common drinking-glass, not too large, and not 
quite full of water ; pour it on the white of egg 
into the basin, Let it stand from night till the next 
morning, to clarify itself. Then grind the bole with 
this tempera as perfectly as you can. Take a nice 
sponge, wash it well and dip it into clean water, 
and squeeze it; rub lightly with the sponge, not 
too wet, on those parts on which the gold is to be 
laid. Then with a large minever brush distemper 
this ground bole as liquid as water for the first 
coat, and where you have wetted with the sponge 
spread this bole thinly, and beware of leaving edges 

1 White of egg is usually whipped on a plate with a knife, or in a 
basin with a wire whisk. If any yolk is mixed with it, it will not 
froth properly. 

io8 The Book of the Art 

with the brush. Then wait a little ; put a little more 
bole into your vessel, and let the second coat of 
colour have a little more body. Give it this second 
coat, and let it again rest a short time; put more 
bole into the vase, and give it a third coat in the 
same manner, making no hard edges. Put more 
bole still into the vase, and give it a fourth coat, 
and then you will have finished laying on the bole. 
Now you may cover over your panel with a cloth, 
to keep it as much as you can from dust, sun, and 

CHAP. 132. Another mode of tempering bole on 
panels ', and of gilding. 

This tempera may be tempered in a different way. 
In order to grind the bole, put the whole albumen of 
an egg on the porphyry slab, then take the pulverised 
bole and grind it into this albumen. Grind it very 
fine, and if it dries under your hands, add to it while 
on the stone a little very clean water. When it is 
well ground, dilute it until it flows from the brush 
like clear water, and give your work three or four 
coats, in the manner above directed. This is a surer 
way than any other tempera if you have not much 
experience. Cover your picture, and keep it well 
from dust, as I have told you before. 

of Cennino Cennini 109 

CHAP. 133. How to gild with verde-terra on 

You may also adopt the same process as that used 
by the ancients, namely, to stretch linen over the 
panel before you lay on the gesso, and then put on 
the gold with verde-terra, grinding the verde-terra as 
you like, in either of the two sorts of temperas, as I 
have taught you above. 

CHAP. 134. How gold is laid on panels. 

When mild, damp weather comes, and you wish 
to lay on gold, place your panel flat on two trestles. 
Sweep it well with the feathers; and takr a raffietto 
and feel with a light hand over the ground of bole, 
and if there is any dirt or knot or roughness, re- 
move it. Take a piece of linen rag (or ravelling), 
and burnish the bole with great care. If you after- 
wards burnish it with a tooth, it cannot but be of 
assistance. When you have thus cleaned and bur- 
nished it, take a glass nearly full of clear water, very 
clean, and put into it a little of the white-of-egg 
tempera; if it is not at all stale, so much the better. 
Mix it thoroughly in the glass with the water. 
Take a large minever brush, made of the hairs of 
the tip of the tail, as I told you before. Take your 
fine gold, and with a pair of small pincers take 

no The Book of the Art 

up a leaf of the gold. Have a card (or piece of 
parchment?) cut square, with the corners cut off. 
Hold it in your left hand, and with the brush, which 
you hold in your right hand, wet the bole sufficiently 
to hold the piece of gold you have in your hand. 
Wet the bole equally, that there may not be more 
water on one part than on another; then let the 
gold gently approach to the wet bole, and take care 
that the gold projects a trifle beyond the card, so 
that the edge of the card may not get wet. Now, 
as soon as the gold has touched the wet part, withr 
draw the card quickly and suddenly; and if you 
perceive that the gold does not adhere everywhere, 
take a piece of clean cotton and press the said 
gold down as gently as you possibly can; and in 
this manner put on the other pieces; and when 
you are wetting for the second piece, be careful that 
the brush does not go so near the first piece as 
to go over it, and let the piece you are putting on 
overlap a trifle the one already laid, first breathing 
on it, that the gold may adhere where it overlaps. 
When you have laid on three pieces, press the first 
piece again with the cotton, first breathing on the 
gold, and that will show if any part requires mend- 
ing. Prepare a cushion as large as a brick, made 
of a smooth piece of board covered with soft 
leather, white and not greasy, of the same kind 
as that of which boots are made. Nail it over, 

of Cennino Cennini m 

stretched, and fill between the wood and the leather 
with a few shreds of cloth ; then on this cushion 
spread out a piece of gold, arid with a flat-edged 
knife cut \the gold into pieces as you want it. 
For the defects which there may be, have a little 
pointed minever brush, and with the same tempera 
wet the defective places, and wetting with the lips 
the handle of the brush, it will be able to take 
up the little bits of gold and lay them on the 
defective place. When you have laid as much gold 
on the level surface as you can burnish in one day, 
for which I shall give you directions when you 
have to gild cornices and foliage, be careful to 
collect the small pieces of gold, as that master does 
who wishes to pave the road, being always as 
sparing of the gold as you can be, and always 
covering with a clean handkerchief the gold which 
you have laid on. 

CHAP. 135. What stones are proper for burnishing 

When you mean to burnish gold, you must have 
a stone called lapis amatisto, 1 which I will teach 
you to prepare. If you have not this stone, sapphires, 
emeralds, balass-rubies, topazes, ' rubies, and garnets 
are still better for those who can afford the expense, 

1 The stone intended here is not amethyst, but the hard haematite. 

ii2 The Book of the Art 

and the nobler the stone, the better it is for this 
purpose. The teeth of dogs, lions, wolves, cats, 
leopards, and of all clean flesh-feeding animals are 
also good. 

CHAP. 136. How to prepare stones for burnishing. 

Get a piece of lapis amatisto ; take care to choose 
one that is sound and without flaw, with the veining 
running lengthwise. Grind it on the grindstone, 
and make it very smooth and polished, and about 
the width of two fingers, or how you can. Then 
take emerald dust, and rub it till it has no sharp 
edge, but only a sort of backbone, and round off 
all the corners and put it in a handle of wood, with 
a band of brass or copper, and let the handle be 
round and smooth, so that the palm of the hand 
may rest well upon it. Then polish it in the 
following manner: Put some charcoal powder upon 
a porphyry slab, and grasping the stone well in 
the hand, as if you were burnishing with it, burnish 
it on the slab, and your stone will become hard, 
dark, and shining as a diamond. You must be 
very careful that it does not Jhit anything or touch 
iron, and when you would use it to burnish gold 
or silver, put it first into your bosom to get rid 
of any dampness, for gold must be humoured (che 
I'oro e motto schifo\ 

of Cennino Cennini 113 

CHAP. 137. How to burnish gold, and what to 
do if you cannot burnish it when ready for 

You must now burnish gold, for the time is come 
that you should do so. It is true that in winter 
you may put on gold whenever you please, during 
damp and mild weather, but not during very dry 
weather. In summer, lay on gold one hour and 
burnish it the next; but should the gilding remain 
too damp, and from some cause or other you want 
to burnish it, keep it in a place where it will not 
feel any ardour of heat or air; but if it is too 
dry, keep it in a damp place, always covered; and 
when you would burnish it, uncover it gently and 
carefully, for the smallest scratch will blemish it 
If you put it in a cellar at the foot of the casks, 
it will become fit to burnish. But should you be 
prevented from burnishing anything for eight or ten 
days or a month, take a very clean handkerchief 
or a towel, lay it over your gold in the cellar, or 
wherever it may be; then take another handker- 
chief, dip it in clean water, wring and squeeze it 
very dry; open it, and spread it over the first 
handkerchief that you laid over the gold, and the 
gold will then become fit for burnishing. Now I 
have told you the sort of condition in which gold 

is fit to be burnished. 


H4 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 138. Now I will explain to you how to burnish 
gold, and in what direction , especially when laid 
on flat surfaces. 

Take your panel, or anything on which you have 
laid gold. Place it level upon trestles or on a bench. 
Take your burnisher, rub it on your breast, or on any 
part of your clothes that is not greasy. Warm it 
well ; then try whether the gold is fit for burnishing. 
"Feel it carefully, always with doubt. If you feel any 
powder under the stone or scratching as you would 
feel powder between your teeth, take a minever's tail 
and sweep with a light hand over the gold, moving 
the stone very softly, and if ever, as you burnish, you 
see that the gold is not as even in its brilliance as a 
looking-glass, put over a piece or half a piece (a leaf 
or half a leaf), first breathing on it, and immediately 
burnish with the stone. And if it should happen that 
the surface of the gold is obstinate and does not come 
as you wish, you may remedy it in the manner I have 
just described ; and if you can afford the expense, you 
will add materially to the perfection of your work, 
and to your own honour, if you gild in this manner 
the whole of your ground. *When it is properly 
burnished, the gold will appear almost dark from its 
own brightness. 

of Cennino Cennini 115 

CHAP. 139. What gold and of what thickness is 
proper to be used for burnishing and mordants. 

You should know that the gold proper to be laid 
on flat surfaces is that where 100 leaves only are 
made from the ducat, and not 145 pieces, because the 
gold for gilding flat surfaces must be more dead- 
looking (piu appannato). And if you would know 
good gold when you buy it, get it from a person who 
is a good gold-beater ; and look at the gold : if it 
appears cloudy and dull like parchrik 7 it, then consider 
it good. For cornices and foliage thinner gold is 
better; and for the delicate fringes and ornaments 
laid on with mordants, the gold should be very thin 
and gossamer-like (cobwebby). 

CHAP. 140. How to begin to turn glories (volgere Ic 
diademe), to engrave the gold } and indent the 
outlines of the figures. 

When you have burnished and finished your panel, 
you must first take the compasses and describe 
the circles for the glories or crowns (corone o vtr 
diademe), 1 Engrave them, add fringes, indent them 
with small stamping tools so that they glitter like grains 
of millet ; adorn with other stamping tools, and engrave 

1 Perhaps only synonymous terms for the nimbus. Such duplication 
of nomenclature is very frequent in the Traltato. 

n6 The Book of the Art 

if there is foliage. To see some practice is necessary 
for this. When you have thus formed the glories and 
ornaments, put into a glazed vessel a little biacca, 
well ground with some thin size, and with a small 
minever brush, ground and outline the figures where 
they come against the background, as you find them 
marked out by the lines which you scratched with the 
needle, before you put on the bole. Again, if you 
would dispense with the biacca and brush, scrape 
away the gold which encroaches on the figures, and 
this will be the best plan. 

This stamping on gold with small patterns (granare) 
which I have told you about is one of the most 
beautiful parts of our art : it can be done all over, 
and it can be done in relief, as I have said; and 
guided by a just fancy and with a light hand, you 
may make foliage designs and little angels, and other 
figures which will shine through the gold; but in 
the folds and in the shadows you do not stamp any 
patterns; in the half-lights a few, and a good many 
in the lights; because this stamping, so to say, 
brightens the gold, which otherwise is dark where it 
is burnished. But before you stamp (or engrave ?) 
any leaf-work or figure draw i\pon the gold ground 
whatever you want to do, with either a silver or 
lead style. 1 

1 This last paragraph is only in the Riccardiana MS. 

of Cennino Cennini 117 

CHAP. 141. How to represent a cloth of gold, or black 
or green, or of any colour you please, on a ground 
of gold. 

Before you begin to colour, I should like to show 
you how to make a cloth of gold. If you would 
have a mantle, or a woman's petticoat, or a little 
cushion of cloth of gold, put on the gold-leaf with 
bole, and scratch the folds of the drapery in the 
manner 1 have shown you formerly for putting on 
a background. Then, if you wish to make .a red 
drapery, lay a flat tint of cinnabar upon the burnished 
gold. For darkening it, use lake ; for lightening it 
minium, all tempered with the yolk of an egg, not 
rubbing the surface too hard with your brush, nor 
touching it too many times. Let it dry, and go over 
it at least twice. In the same manner you may 
make green or black draperies, if you please. But 
if you would make a beautiful drapery of ultramarine 
blue, first lay a flat tint on the gold of biacca 
tempered with the yolk of an egg. When it is dry, 
temper your ultramarine with a little size, and a little 
yolk of egg, perhaps two drops. Pass it over the 
white two or three times, and let it dry. Then, accord- 
ing to the drapery you wish to paint, prepare your 
powders ; that is, you must draw the designs first on 
parchment and prick them in fine holes with a needle, 
holding a piece of cloth under the parchment, or, if 

n8 The Book of the Art 

you like, a board of lime-tree wood or alder wood; 
this is better than cloth. When the holes are pricked, 
take powder according to the colour of the drapery 
you have to transfer to. If it is white, dust with 
charcoal powder tied in a rag; if it is black, dust 
with biacca, also tied in a rag and sic de singulis. 
Make your transfer patterns match well at the edges. 

CHAP. 142. How to draw, engrave (grattare), 1 and 
indent (granare) on cloth of gold or silver. 

Having transferred the design to the drapery by 
dusting powder (through the holes of the cartoon) 
take a stiletto (small style) of birch, or other hard 
wood, or of bone, pointed like a proper drawing style 
at one end, at the other blunt for engraving. And 
with the point of this style pick out the drawing of 
all the draperies, and with the other end scrape off 
the paint to the gold below, without rubbing off the 
gold, whatever you wish either in the background or 
the pattern work, and you can stamp patterns with 
the rosetta 2 on what you uncover. And if in certain 

small parts of the design you cannot use the rosetta, 


1 Grattare here means to scrape lines and patterns through paint to 
the underlying gold easy with tempera paint a method frequently 
employed in yuaftro cento pictures ; it is more beautiful and brilliant 
than gilding with mordants. 

2 No doubt the rosetta was a tool making a print of tiny indented 
clustered dots. 

of Cennino Cennini 119 

you must use an iron point like a drawing-style. 
And this is how you begin to learn to make gold 
draperies. If you would make silver draperies, you 
must proceed in exactly the same manner in putting 
on the silver as in putting on the gold. I advise you 
too, if you want to teach boys or children to put 
on gold, let them begin with silver, that they may 
get some practice, for it is cheaper. 

CHAP. 143. How to make a rich drapery of gold or 
silver or ultramarine blue, and how it is made of 
gilded tin on walls. 1 

Again, if you wish to make a rich drapery of gold, 
there is the way of ornamenting this garment with 
leaf-work in relief, or with stones of many colours 
set in it; then lay fine gold all over, then stamp 
patterns on when it is burnished. 

Ad idem. Cover the whole ground with gold ; 
burnish it ; design upon it the drapery which you wish 
to make, hunting scenes or other subjects. Then 
stamp the patterns (granare] on the ground or orna- 
mental work (lacci\ that is, what you have already 

Ad idem. Put on the gold ground, draw whatever 
design you wish, lay over, when the design requires it, 

1 The careful study of gold draperies and backgrounds in mediaeval 
pictures will best explain this chapter. 

120 The Book of the Art 

ground colour of verdigris in oil ; shading each fold 
twice ; then putting one coat evenly everywhere over 
the ground and designs. 

A4 idem. Put on the ground with gold, burnish it, 
and stamp (granare) it in relief. 1 

Ad idem. Lay silver over the drapery ; draw the 
pattern of the stuff when it is burnished, which latter 
is always implied; lay in the ground or coloured 
spaces in the design with cinnabar, tempered with 
yolk of egg; then with a fine lake and oil give one 
or two coats over all the work, either the ground or 
coloured parts of the pattern. 

Ad idem. If you wish to make a beautiful drapery 
of ultramarine blue, cover the garment with burnished 
silver ; design the pattern of the stuff, and put on this 
azure, whether covering the ground or in patterns, 
tempered with size. Then spread some of it equally 
all over the grounds and the coloured patterns, and it 
will be a velvet-like drapery. 

Ad idem. Ground the draperies, the figure, with 
what colour you like; shade it. Then take a fine 
minever brush, and the mordants. When you have 
dusted on the pattern of the stuff and borders (lacct), 
work with mordants, which I have told you about 
already. And you can use these mordants for gold or 
silver, and you will get beautiful draperies if you rub 
and burnish them with cotton-wool. 

1 This stamping in relief is not very intelligible. 

of Cennino Cennini 121 

Ad idem. Having laid in a ground of whatever 
colour you like as I have just told you, if you make a 
shot effect, work on the gold with whatever colour you 
like, but different from the ground colour. 

Ad idem on the wall. Make the garment of gilded 
tin; put in what ground-colour you like; dust the 
design on and engrave the pattern of the drapery by 
scraping with the wooden style, the colours being 
always tempered with yolk of egg. And it will be a 
very good drapery for a wall. But you can work with 
mordants on a wall, the same as on a panel. 

CHAP. 144. How to imitate velvet or linen on walls, 
and also silks on walls or panels. 

If you would imitate velvet, paint the drapery of 
any colour you please, tempering your colour with the / 
yolk of an egg. Make the pile on the velvet with a 
minever brush with colour tempered with oil. Make 
the pile with thick paint. And in this manner you 
may imitate red, black, or any other coloured velvet, 
tempering your colours as before. Sometimes it is a 
good thing to show on a wall, a lining or a garment or 
drapery which should really appear woollen. And to 
do this, when you have laid on the plaster, smoothed 
and coloured it, reserve that part which you are now 
going to do thus : take a small bit of board, a little 
bigger than a play-tablet, and sprinkling water on this 

122 The Book of the Art 

or on the place in the picture, move this little board 
round and round ; the lime will become rough and ill- 
polished. Colour it as it is without being smoothed, 
and it will appear like real woollen cloth. 

Ad idem. If you would make a silk drapery either 
on panels or on walls, lay on the ground with cinnabar 
and lighten with minium, or if you like with sinopia, 
and lighten with giallorino on walls ; and in panels 
with orpiment or green or any colour you please. 
Lay the ground dark, and lighten it with a light 

Ad idem. On walls in fresco. Lay on a ground of 
indigo, and lighten with indigo and bianco sangiovanni 
mixed together, and if you would use these colours on 
panels or on shields, mix indigo with biacca, tempered 
with size; and in this manner you may make many 
kinds of drapery, according to your abilities and 

CHAP. 145. How to paint on a panel \ and how to 
temper the colours. 

I think that you wHl have so much understanding 
from your own experience as wjll enable you to teach 
yourself from these rules to paint skilfully many 
kinds of drapery, and by the grace of God we must 
come to painting on a panel. You must know that 
painting on panels is the proper employment of a 

of Cennino Cennini 123 

gentleman ; and that, with velvet on his back, he may do 
what he pleases. It is true that pictures are painted 
just as I explained to you to work in fresco, with 
three exceptions. One is that you must always paint 
the draperies and buildings before the faces. The 
second is that you must temper your colours always 
with yolk of egg and thoroughly tempered, always as 
much of the yolk as of the colours which you temper 
with it. The third is this, that the colours must be 
ground very fine, well ground, just like water. And 
that you may have great pleasure, begin to paint 
draperies in lake in the same manner that I taught 
you in fresco-painting; namely, let the first gradation 
be pure colour, then take two parts lake and the^ 
third biacca and of this when tempered make three 
gradations, but little varying from each other ; temper 
them well, and make them lighter with biacca finely 
ground. Then take your panel before you, and always 
keep it covered with a cloth for love of the gold and 
the ground, that they may not be hurt by the dust ; 
and that your work may be fair and clean when it 
leaves your hands. Then take a minever brush with- 
out a point, and begin to lay on the dark colour, and 
make out the shadows in what should be the dark 
part of the figure. Then in the usual manner take 
the middle tint and paint the reflected lights, and 
lights 1 of the dark folds, and begin with the same 
1 I dossi e relievi delle pieghe scure. 

124 The Book of the Art 

colour to make out the folds of the lighted side. 
Then with the lightest colour paint the light reliefs 
on the light side of the figure, and in this manner 
return to the first dark folds of the drapery with the 
dark colour. And thus, as you have begun, go many 
times over with these colours, first one and then the 
other, painting them over and uniting them skilfully, 
and softening them tenderly. And now it is time to 
leave your work and to rest yourself for a short space, 
and then return to the work on your panel. You 
should always take pleasure in your work. When 
you have covered the ground properly with these 
three gradations of colour, take the lightest, and 
prepare another still lighter, always washing the 
former colours from the brush. Make another colour 
still lighter than this, and let them vary but little 
from each other. Then touch with pure white, 
tempered as above on the high lights; and thus 
paint the shades one after the other in regular grada- 
tions, until they reach the deepest shades of pure 
lake. And remember tltat, as you have made your 
colours in gradations, so you must arrange your vases 
in order of this gradation, that you may not mistake 
one for the other. Thus in ttyis manner you may 
paiijt any colour you please, either red, or white, or 
yellow, or green. But if you would make a beautiful 
purple (bisso) colour take fine lake, and the best 
ultramarine blue, finely ground, and of this mixture, 

of Cennino Cennini 125 

with biacca, properly tempered, make your gradations 
of colour. If you would make a light blue colour, 
lighten it with biacca, and paint it in the manner 
above described. 

CHAP. 146. How to paint draperies of blue, gold, 
or purple (Corpora). 

If you would make a blue drapery, neither all mixed 
with white, nor all pure blue, take several shades 
of ultramarine, of which there are many, one lighter 
than the other." Colour them according to the lights 
and shades of the figure, in the manner I have shown 
you. And you may use them on walls, with the same 
tempera as above, in secco. And if you will not 
afford the expense of using these shades of ultramarine, 
you may find similar shades of azzurro della magna ; or 
if you wish to make a gold pattern on the blue, you 
may do so. You can touch with a little purple (bisso) 
in the dark of the folds and a little on the lights, 
making out the folds delicately on the gold. These 
draperies will please you much, particularly in the 
draperies of the Lord God. If you would clothe Our 
Lady in a purple drapery, paint the drapery white, and 
shade it with a very light bisso, but little removed 
from white ; make the patterns of fine gold, making out 
the folds in the gold with a little dark purple. This 
will be very lovely. 

126 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 147. How to colour faces, hands, feet, and 
flesh generally. 

Having drawn and coloured draperies, trees, build- 
ings, and mountains, you should next colour flesh, 
which you should begin in the following manner. 
Take a little verde-terra, and a little well-tempered 
biacca, and go twice over the face, hands, feet, and 
all the naked parts. But this first bed of colour must, 
when painting the faces of young persons with fresh 
complexions, be tempered with the yolk of the egg of 
a city hen ; because they have lighter yolks than 
those laid by country hens, which, from their redness, 
are only fit to temper the flesh-colouring of old and 
dark persons. Now bear in mind, that when painting 
on walls you made your rosy tints (rossette) with 
cinabrese ; on a panel they must be of cinnabar, and 
the first rosy tints must not consist of pure cinnabar, 
but you must add a little white (biacca) to it, and 
also to the verdaccio with which you first shade. 
Then, as you did in painting on walls, you must 
prepare three gradations of flesh-colour, one lighter 
than the other, laying every tint in its right place in 
the face, taking care not to cover over the whole of 
the verdaccio, but shading partially on it with the 
darkest flesh-colour, making it very liquid, and soften- 
ing off the colour in the tenderest manner. On a 
panel more coats of colour are required than on a 

of Cennino Cennini 127 

wall, yet not so many but that the green tint under 
the flesh-colour should be just visible through it. 
When you have worked your flesh colours, and the 
face begins to look nearly right, make a flesh-tint 
lighter still, and paint the prominent parts of the face, 
putting on the lights gradually in the most delicate 
manner, until at last you touch in the highest lights, 
as over the eyebrows, and on the tip of the nose, 
with a little pure white. Paint the outlines of the 
upper eyelids with black, also the eyelashes and the 
nostrils. Then take a little dark sinopia with a little 
black, and make the outline of the nose, eyes, eye- 
brows, hair, hands and feet, and generally of every 
part, as I directed you when painting on walls always 
with the same tempera of yolk of egg. 

CHAP. 148. How to colour a dead man, his hair 
and beard. 

Next we shall speak of colouring a dead man, that 
is to say, his face, his body, or any naked part that 
may be visible either on a panel or a wall ; except 
that on a wall you need not first lay a ground tint 
of verde-terra. If it is laid on the half-tints, between 
the lights and shades, that will be sufficient. But on 
a panel you must lay it on in the usual way as 
directed for colouring living faces, and also shade it 
in the same way with verdaccio. You must use no 

128 The Book of the Art 

rosy tints, because dead persons have no colour ; but 
take a little light ochre for your three gradations of 
flesh-colour, mixed with white, and temper in the 
usual manner, laying each tint in its place, and soften- 
ing them into each other, as well on the face as on 
the body. And in the same manner, when you have 
nearly covered your ground, make the lightest flesh- 
tint still lighter, reducing it to pure white for the 
highest lights. Then mark the outlines with dark 
sinopia, mixed with a little black, which is called 
'sanguigno/ and in the same manner the hair, but 
not so that it shall appear to be alive but dead, with 
several shades of verdaccio, and as I showed you 
how to paint several kinds of beards on walls, in the 
same way paint on panels, and so paint the bones of 
Christians or rational creatures with this same flesh- 

CHAP. 149. How to paint a wounded person or the 

Having to paint a wounded person, you must lay 
a tint of pure cinnabar wherever the blood is to 
appear. Then take fine lake ttmpered in the usual 
manner, and shade the wound and the drops of 

of Cennino Cennini 129 

CHAP. 1 50. How to colour water, or a river, with or 
without fish, on walls or on pictures. 

When you would paint water, a river or any other 
water, either with or without fish, on walls, or on 
panels for walls take the same verdaccio with which 
you shaded faces on the lime intonaco draw the 
fish, and shade them with the verdaccio ; but only the 
shades on the back, for I must inform you that fish 
and irrational animals generally have their dark parts 
upwards, and their light parts beneath. When you 
have finished shading with the verdaccio, whiten them 
beneath, with bianco sangiovanni on walls, on panels 
with biacca, and then pass some touches of the same 
verdaccio over the fish and the water. If you would 
make a variety in your fish, let some have a row of 
spines of gold on their backs. In secco lay a tint 
of verdigris ground in oil, over the water, and the 
same on panels ; or if you do not choose to use oil, 
take verde-terra, or verde-azzurro, and cover every 
part equally, but not so much but that you may see 
the fish and the waves of the water. And if needful 
lighten the waves with bianco on walls, and tempered 
biacca on panels. This is sufficient information for 
you on colouring. We shall no Wi proceed to the art 
of embellishing, 1 but we must first speak of mordants. 

1 That is, with gilding. 


130 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 151. The way to make a good mordant for 
laying gold on draperies and ornaments. 

A mordant is made which is perfect for walls, on 
panels, on glass, on iron, and in every place: it is 
made in this way. You will take your oil, which has 
been cooked on the fire or in the sun, cooked in the 
way I told you before, and grind with this oil a little 
biacca (lead-white) and verdigris ; and when you have 
ground it like water, put a little varnish (or resin) 1 
in it, and let everything boil together for a little while. 
Then take one of your glazed vessels and put it in 
and let it rest. And when you want to use it either 
for cloths (panni, draperies ?) or for adornments, 
take a little in a small vessel, and a minever brush, 
made in the quill of a pigeon's or hen's feather, and 
make it stiff and pointed, with the point coming out 
very little beyond the quill. Then dip the tip of the 
point into the mordant, and make your ornaments 
and borders (fregt), and, as I tell you, never load the 
brush too much. The reason is that in this way your 
work will come like fine hairs, which is very lovely 
work. Do you wish to hear more about doing it ? 
wait till the next day; then feel what you have done 
with the ring-finger of the right hand, that is, with the 
tip of the finger, and if it is only slightly tacky, then 

1 When a prepared varnish is intended, we find vernice liquida. 
Vernice alone here probably means dry sandarach resin. 

of Cennino Cennini 131 

take the pincers, cut off half a leaf of fine gold, or 
alloyed gold (pro di mefa) } or of silver, though these 
two do not last, and lay it upon the mordant. Press 
it with cotton, and with the same finger stroke the 
piece of gold, putting some over the mordant where 
there is none. Don't do it with any other finger-tip, 
for this is the most sensitive and delicate of the whole 
hand, and take care that your hands are always clean. 
I warn you that gold which is laid over mordants, 
especially in such very fine work, must be the thinnest 
beaten gold which you can get ; for if it is thick you 
cannot use it so well. When you have put on all the 
gold, if you wish you can let it remain till another 
aay; and then take a feather, and sweep all over, 
and if you like collect the sweepings of the gold and 
keep them. They do for goldsmiths or for your own 
work. Then take clean new cotton, and burnish 
perfectly your gilt borders. 

CHAP. 152. How to temper this mordant to put the 
gold on more quickly. 

If you wish this mordant, first described, to last 
eight days before the gilding is done, do not put any 
verdigris in it. If you wish that it should last four 
days, put a little verdigris; if that it should be good 
from one evening to another, put plenty of verdigris, 
and also a very little bole. And if you find that any 

132 The Book of the Art 

person blames you for using verdigris, for fear it 
should contaminate the gold, tell them I have proved 
it, and that the gold keeps quite well. 

CHAP. 153. The way to make another mordant with 
garlic, and where it is best to use it. 1 

There is another mordant which is made in this 
way. Take clean garlics, one, two, or three pans 
full; pound them in a mortar; squeeze them in a 
piece of linen, two or three times. Take this juice 
and grind it as firmly as possible with a little biacca 
and bole. Then collect it, put in a vase, cover it and 
keep it, and the older it is, the better it is. Do not 
take small or young garlic, but half-grown ones. And 
when you wish to use this mordant, put a little in 
a glazed vessel, with a little wine, and stir it thoroughly 
together with a skewer till it flows from your brush 
in such manner as to be fit to work skilfully with. 
Then, after half-an-hour, the gold can be laid on as 
has been described already. The nature of this mor- 
dant is such that it will remain fit for putting the 
gold on for half-an-hour, an hour, or a day, or a 
week, or a month, or a year, whenever you like. But 
keep it covered and preserve it well from dust. This 
mordant is not proof against water and damp, but 
can be used in churches, and elsewhere under cover 

1 This mordant is not very usual, but is given in the Hermeneia. 

of Cennino Cennini 133 

if the wall is built of bricks; but it is most suited 
for panels and ironwork, and on anything which is 
varnished with liquid varnish. And these two ways 
for the two different species of mordants are enough 
for you. 

CHAP. 154. Of varnishing. 

I think I have said enough on the subject of paint- 
ing on walls in fresco, in secco, and on panels. But 
we shall say more further on about the manner of 
painting and gilding and making miniatures on parch- 
ment. But first I want you to see how to varnish 
pictures on panels and all other works except on walls. 

CHAP. 155. How and when to varnish pictures. 

You must know that the best varnishing is to delay 
as long as possible after your picture is painted the 
^fonger the better. And I speak truth when I say, 
that if you delay for several years, or at least for one 
year, your work will be much fresher. The reason 
of this is, that the colouring naturally acquires the 
same condition as the gold, which shuns a mixture 
with other metals ; so that the colours, when mixed 
with their proper tempera, dislike the inmixture of other 
tempera. Varnish is a strong liquor and gives great 
force (dimostrativd), and will be obeyed in everything, 
and annuls every other tempera. And suddenly as 
you spread it over the picture, the colours lose their 

134 The Book of the Art 

natural strength and must obey the varnish, and 
their own tempera has no longer power to refresh 
them. It is therefore proper to delay varnishing as 
long as you can ; for if you varnish after the tempera 
has had the proper effect on the colours, they will 
afterwards become more fresh and beautiful, and will 
remain always the same. Then take liquid varnish, 
the brightest and clearest you can obtain ; place your 
picture in the sun, wipe it and clean it as thoroughly 
as you can from dust and dirt of every kind, and take 
care that it is weather without wind, because the dust 
is subtle ; and every time that the wind blows it over 
your picture, you will have more difficulty in making 
it clean. You might well varnish in such a place as 
a green meadow or by the sea, that the dust may do 
no harm. When you have warmed the picture in the 
sun, and the varnish also, place the picture level, and 
with your hands spread the varnish all over thinly and 
well. But be careful not to go over the gold with it, 
for association with varnish and other liquors are dis- 
pleasing to it. If you do not choose to spread the 
varnish with your hand, dip a small piece of fine 
sponge into the varnish, rolling it with the hand over 
the picture varnish in the usual manner, adding or 
taking away as is needful. If you wish the varnish 
to dry without sun, boil it well first, and the picture 
will be much better for not being too much exposed 
to the sun. 

of Cennino Cennini 135 

CHAP. 1 56. How in a short time you can make a 
picture look as if it had been varnished! 

If you would have your picture appear in a short 
time to have been varnished when it has not been, 
take the white of an egg, beaten thoroughly with a 
whisk as much as it can be, until it makes a thick 
froth. Let it stand one night to clear itself. Put the 
clear part into a clean vessel, and spread it with a 
minever brush over your works, which will appear 
as if varnished, and they are even stronger. This 
varnish is applicable to detached figures in relief either 
of wood or stone. In this way you may varnish the 
faces, hands, and flesh of such figures generally. And 
this is enough to say about varnishing. We will now 
speak of painting miniatures on parchment. 

CHAP. 157. How you must do miniature-painting 
and put gold on parchment. 

First, if you would paint miniatures you must draw 
with a leaden style figures, foliage, letters, or whatever 
you please, on parchment, that is to say in books: 
then with a pen you must make the delicate permanent 
outline of what you have designed. Then you must 

1 White of egg is sometimes used as a temporary varnish on oil- 
painting, but must be removed before the permanent varnish or it cracks 
It could not be removed from tempera. 

136 The Book of the Art 

have a paint that is a sort of gesso, called asiso, and 
it is made in this manner ; namely, a little gesso sottile 
and a little biacca, never more of this than equals a 
third part of the gesso ; then take a little candy, less 
than the biacca; grind these ingredients very finely 
with clear water, collect them together, and let them 
dry, without sun. When you wish to use some to put 
on gold, cut off a piece as large as you have need of, 
and temper it with the white of an egg, well beaten, as 
I have taught you. Temper this mixture with it ; let 
it dry ; then take your gold, and either breathing on it 
or not, as you please, you can put it on ; and the gold 
being laid on, take the tooth or burnishing-stone and 
burnish it, but hold under the parchment a firm tablet 
of good wood, very smooth. And you must know that 
you may write letters with a pen and this asiso, or 
lay a ground of it, or whatever you please it is most 
excellent. But before you lay the gold on it, see 
whether it is needful to scrape or level it with the 
point of a knife, or clean it in any way, for your brush 
sometimes puts more on in one place than in another. 
Always beware of this. 

CHAP. 158. Another way of laying gold on parch- 

If you would like another kind of asiso but this is 
not so good, but may be used for putting on gold 

of Cennino Cennini 137 

grounds, though not to write with take gesso sottile, 
and a third part biacca, a fourth part Armenian bole, 
with a little sugar; grind all these very finely with the 
white of an egg ; lay on the ground in the usual man- 
ner, and let it dry; then with the point of a knife 
scrape and clean the gesso. Put the previously men- 
tioned tablet under the parchment, or a very flat stone, 
an4 burnish it ; and should it by chance not burnish 
well when you put on the gold, wet the gesso with 
clean water with a small minever brush, and when it 
is dry burnish it. 

CHAP. 159. Of a colour like gold which is called 
) and how it is made. 

I will show you how to make a colour like gold 
which is a good colour for miniature-painters on parch- 
ment, and also on panels if it should be employed; 
but beware, as of poison or fire, lest this colour, 
which is called porporina, should approach a gold 
ground; for I warn you, if a ground of gold were 
made which reached from hence to Rome, and if a 
piece of quicksilver as large as half a grain of millet 
were to touch the gold ground, it would be sufficient 
to spoil the whole. The best remedy you can have is 
quickly with the point of a knife or needle to make 
a scratch on the gold, and it will not get any further 
hold on it. This porporina colour is made as follows : 

138 The Book of the Art 

Take sal armeniaca, tin, sulphur, and quicksilver, of 
each equal parts, except that there must be less quick- 
silver. Put these things in a vessel of iron, copper, 
or glass, melt it all on the fire, and it is done ; then 
temper with the white of an egg and gum-arabic, 
and use it as you please. If you make draperies 
with it, shade it with lake or azure or purple, always 
tempering the colours on parchment (cartd) with 

CHAP. 1 60. How to grind gold and silver, and how 
to temper them to make foliage and embellish- 
ments^ and hoiv verde-terra can be varnished. 

If you would work with gold on pictures, panels, 
parchment, or walls, or on anything you please (but 
not covering all over as in grounds of gold), or if you 
wish to paint some tree that might appear as of the 
trees of paradise, take pieces of fine gold in quantity 
according to the work you are going to paint or write, 
that is to say about ten or twenty pieces, put them 
on the porphyry slab, and grind them with the well- 
beaten white of an egg; then put the whole into a 
glazed vessel. Put sufficient tempera to make it flow 
from the pen or brush, and you may do any work 
you please with it. You may also grind it with gum- 
arabic for use on parchment, and if you make leaves 
of trees, mix with the gold a little green very finely 

of Cennino Cennini 139 

ground for the dark leaves; and in this manner, 
mingling in other colours, you may make changing 
colours at your discretion. With this kind of gold, 
silver, or alloyed gold (pro di meta) you may make 
1 reticulated J gold-work ' (?) (cardare) on draperies in 
the antique manner, and certain ornaments which are 
not used by many other painters ; yet if you paint 
them well, they will increase your reputation. But 
what I teach you, you must use great judgment to 
know how to carry it all out well. 

CHAP. 161. Of the colours which are wed in working 
on parchment. 

It is true that all colours which you use on panels 
you can use on parchment ; but they must be ground 
very finely. It is also true that there are certain 
colours which have no body, which are called 'pezzuole,' 2 
which are made in all sorts of colours ; and it is tmly 
necessary to take a bit of rag of any tint, and to put 
it in a glazed vessel, or drinking-glass, and to put 
some gum with it, and it is fit to work with. A colour 
is made besides of Brazil wood boiled with lye and 
rock-alum, and then when it is cold it is ground with 
caustic lime, and it makes a very fair red and gets in 
this way a little body. 

1 Probably the curious gold lines used in early Sienese and early 
Russian work in the place of folds on the draperies of the Madonna and 
the Saviour. 

2 Bits of linen soaked in transparent colours. 

140 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 162. Of the way to work on linen or hempen 

Now let us speak of the way to work on cloth, 
that is, either linen or canvas, and you will observe 
this method in painting on any kind of cloth ; that in 
the first place it is necessary to stretch it firmly on 
the frame (stretcher;, flailing the seams straight first, 
then going round and round with little nails, spread- 
ing it equally and in an exact manner, getting all the 

1 The later chapters of the Trattato beginning here, which are 
not contained in the Ottobonian MS. first printed by Tambroni, treat 
of the more decorative parts of the painter's art, and one or two of 
these are almost childish as that on mosaic, so that, there being also a 
slight difference in style, I have sometimes thought that these chapters 
were not written by Cennino.* Such decorative work, however, cer- 
tainly formed part of the painter's business, and is often alluded to by 
Vasari. Some extracts from the Latin statute of the Guild of Painters 
of Venice, dated 1272, in J. P. Richter's "National Gallery," give par- 
ticulars of what was expected from them. Their works are classed as 
(i) Scuta and rodella, namely shields, oval and round, decorated with 
paintings ; (2) Cophani and arcellce y or painted chests ; (3) Utensils 
for the table, i.e. plates and dishes of wood and painted table- tops. 
It is only at the end of the list that ancone are mentioned ; the word 
always used by Cennino as synonymous with tavola. Both meant small 
sacred pictures on wood of the Madonna or saints. It does not seem, 
however, that each person did ail the kinds of work. Up to the last 
days of the Republic the following craftsmen were included in the 
ranks of the Guild. At its head were the dipintori, the painters ; then 
the miniatoriy or miniaturists; me disegMatori, designers, who only 
furnished drawings for embroidery j" the maschereri t \\\z mask painters, 
who also produced plaster figures ; lavorotori di cuoi d'oro who fur- 
nished the gilded leather hangings ; finally the cartolari, who made and 
sold playing cards. It was only in the year 1636 that the painters of 
pictures withdrew from the Guild. 

of Cennino Cennini 141 

threads precisely in the right direction. When you 
have done this, take gesso sottile (slaked plaster of 
Paris) and a little starch, or a little sugar, and grind 
these with size in the same manner that you tempered 
gesso for panels, grinding it very firfe ; but first with 
this size, without gesso, go once over the whole ; and 
if the size were not so strong as that which is mixed 
with the gesso, never mind. Let it be as hot as pos- 
sible, and with a blunt, soft bristle-brush, put some all 
over every part where you have to paint. Then take 
the cloth when it is dry ; have a knife-blade (mella di 
coltello) level at the edge and straight as a cord, and 
with it put this gesso on the cloth, putting it on and 
scraping it off equally, and the less gesso you leave on 
the better ; only just let it fill up the holes between 
the threads. It is enough to put the gesso on once. 
When it is dry, take a knife that scrapes well, and 
look over the cloth to see whether there are any knots 
or lumps, and remove them; and then take your 
charcoal, and in the same way that you drew on the 
panel, draw now on cloth, and fix the drawing with 
water-colour made of ink. Next I wish to teach you, 
that if you wish to make glories and backgrounds of 
burnished gold, this is put on both linen and canvas 
with mordants, and because the following way is 
marvellously better than others which many people 
have used, I am going to tell you about it; and the 
cloth can be rolled up and folded, without hurting the 

142 The Book of the Art 

gold and the colours. First take the said gesso sottile 
with a little bole, and temper this gesso with a little 
white of egg and size, and put one coat over the place 
where you are going to lay on gold. When it is dry, 
scrape it a little ; then take bole, ground and tempered 
as it should be for putting on a panel, and put on five 
or six coats of it, and leave it for a few days. Put 
on your gold exactly as you would on a panel, and 
burnish it, holding under the cloth a smooth firm 
board, having a cushion between the cloth and the 
board, and in this way engrave and stamp the glories 
(or diadems), and they will be exactly the same as on 
a panel. But it is advisable -then, as sometimes these 
banners which are made for churches are carried 
outside when it rains, indeed necessary, to see to 
having a very clear varnish, and when you varnish 
the painting, varnish a little the diadems and the 
gold background. 

You must colour on cloth in the method used for 
panels, that is, in stages (di passo in passo), and it is 
pleasanter than working on panels ; because the cloth 
retains the moisture (il molle) a little ; * and it is exactly 
like working in fresco, that is, on walls. Also I warn 
you that when you are colouring the colours must be 

1 May this be a reference to the method suggested by Vasari and 
Armenini of sponging the back of a tempera picture on canvas and so 
being able to keep the painting moist for a time ? It should be clearly 
understood that even so the paint could not be dragged and worked 
like fresh oil-paint. (Vasari, Introd., c. 25 ; Armenini, De veri Precetti 
dtlla Pittura, Ravenna, 1587, L. ii. c, 8.) 

of Cennino Cennini 143 

put on in many, many coats, even more than on panels, 
because cloth has no substance like panels, and the 
varnishing will not show up bright, if the paint is thin. 
Temper the colours similarly as for a panel. I will 
not speak at greater length on this subject. 

CHAP. 163. How to work on black or blue cloth or 
on a curtain. 

If you were to have to work on black or blue cloth 
such as a curtain, stretch your cloth in the manner 
described above. It is not necessary to put on gesso; 
you cannot draw with charcoal. Take tailor's chalk, 
and carefully make such little pieces of it as you 
would make sticks of charcoal ; and put them into the 
opening of a goose-quill, of whatever size is required. 
Put a stick to the quill and draw lightly. Then 
fix it with tempered biacca. Then put on a coat 
of that size which you temper gesso with on panels : 
then lay the ground-colour as much as you can, and 
paint the draperies, faces, mountains, buildings, and 
what seems good to you, and temper in the accus- 
tomed way. Also in painting curtains, you may take 
white cloth, and apply it upon the blue cloth, stuck 
on with paste in the manner of glue; and put it on 
according to the figures which you wish to disperse 
over the space, and you can paint it with certain 
water-colours without varnishing afterwards. And a 

144 The Book of the Art 

good many are done in this way and cheaply, and are 
very good for the price. Also on curtains you can 
make foliage enrichments with the brush, of indigo and 
biacca on the plain ground, tempered with size ; and 
leave among this foliage work, some good spaces, to 
put in gilt adornments, made with oil mordants. 

CHAP. 164. How to design on cloth or canvas for 
the use of embroiderers. 

Also you must sometimes provide embroiderers 
with various sorts of designs. And for this work 
make these masters prepare cloth or canvas well 
stretched on a frame ; and if it is white cloth (linen, 
probably), take your accustomed charcoals and draw 
what you like. Then take pen and ink and draw 
it correctly, as you did with a brush on panels. Then 
brush away the charcoal, then take a well-washed 
sponge with the water squeezed out. Rub the linen 
on the opposite side from the drawing, and use the 
sponge just so much that the linen (cloth) is wetted as 
much as the drawing will bear. Then take a small 
soft minever brush, dip it in the ink, squeeze it well, 
and with this begin to shade in the darkest places, 
lightening and softening little by little. You will find 
that however coarse the cloth may be, in this way the 
shadows will be so softened that it will seem a marvel 
to you. And if the cloth should dry before you have 

of Cennino Cennini 145 

shaded enough, wet it over again with the sponge as 
usual, and this is sufficient for working on cloth. 

CHAP. 165. Of working on canvas for baldachinos, 
banners, standards, and other works, and of 
putting on diadems or fields of gold. 

If you have to work on canvas baldachinos or other 
works, stretch them first on a frame, as I told you 
in, the case of linen cloth ; and, according to the 
colour of the ground, take either charcoal or white 
chalks. Make your design, and draw it exactly with 
ink or tempered colour, and if on each side there 
is to be the same story or figure, put the frame up 
to the sun, turning the side which is drawn upon 
towards the sun, so that it may shine through. 
Stand behind with your tempered colour; and with 
a very fine minever brush, go over the shadows of 
your design which you will see showing through. 
If you have to draw at night, put a big lamp on the 
side you have drawn upon, and a little one on the side 
on which you have to draw. That is, when you 
are working there might be a double lamp on the 
side which is drawn upon, and a candle on the side 
you are drawing. If there is no sun, and you have 
to draw by daylight, let the light of the two windows 
be on the side which is drawn upon, and on that 
where you are drawing let the light fall from one 

146 The Book of the Art 

very small window. Then size with the usual size, 
wherever you have to paint and put on gold, and mix 
a little white of egg with the said size, as it might 
be one white of egg in four glasses of size; and 
when you have sized, if you want to put on any 
diadem or field of burnished gold, to bring you 
honour and fair name, take gesso sottile (slaked 
plaster of Paris) and a little Armenian bole, ground 
together very finely with a morsel of sugar. Then 
with the usual size, and a very very little white of 
egg mixed with a little biacca, go thinly twice over, 
where you want to put on the gold. Then put 
on your bole as if you were putting it on a panel; 
then put on your gold with clear water, mixing in 
this a little of the tempera of the bole, and burnish 
it on a very smooth stone, or a firm smooth board : 
and so engrave and stamp it over this board. Then 
you can paint everything in the usual way, the 
colours being tempered with yolk of egg, and being 
laid on in seven or eight or ten coats in consideration 
of the varnishing; and then you can put on the 
diadems (or glories) and gold backgrounds, with oil 
mordants, and the ornaments with garlic mordants, 
varnished afterwards; but oil mordants are better. 
And this is enough for standards and banners and 
all the rest. 

of Cennino Cennini 147 

CHAP. 1 66. The way to paint and put on gold on 

If you have to work on velvets and design for 
embroiderers, draw your work with a pen, either 
with ink or with tempered biacca. If you have to 
colour anything or put on gold, take the usual size, 
and an equal quantity of white of egg, and a little 
biacca, and with a bristle brush put some over the 
pile, beat it hard down and press (bruise) it flat, 
then colour and put on gold in the way described; 
but it must be gold applied with mordants. But it 
will be less trouble to do the work on white canvas, 
having cut out in it the figures or other designs, and 
have them sewn into the velvet bv the embroiderers. 

CHAP. 167. Of working on woollen cloth. 

If by chance you should have to work on woollen 
cloth, by reason of tourneys or jousts (for there are 
some gentlemen, and great and important seigniors, 
who wish for strange things, and they will have their 
devices in gold and silver on this kind of cloth), first 
take, according to the colour of the cloth, whatever 
chalk you require for designing, and fix the outline 
with the pen, as you did upon velvet ; and then take 
the white of egg well beaten, as I taught you first, and 
put some on the nap of the cloth in that part where 

148 The Book of the Art 

you have to lay on the gold. Then when it is dry, 
burnish with a tooth over the said cloth ; then lay on 
two or three coats of the same tempera. When it is 
dry put on your mordant, taking care that it does 
not go beyond the prepared place; and put on such 
gold and silver as appears pleasing and right to you. 

CHAP. 1 68. How to paint trappings for horses, 
devices and mantles (giornee) for tournaments 
and jousts. 

Sometimes in these tournaments and jousts there 
are made on the trappings of the horses and on 
mantles (giornee) certain raised devices so ATI upon 
them. So I will explain to you how they are made 
of paper (carta bambagina) ; first these sheets of 
paper are covered all over the whole sheet with 
burnished gold or silver ; and it is done in this 
manner, which is thus : grind a little ochre or tailor's 
chalk, as finely as you can, a very very little Armenian 
bole; temper them together with size, which must 
be almost water, that is, not at all strong, but with 
very little substance or goodness; and with a soft 
bristle-brush, or, if you like, a minever brush, put 
one coat, over the sheets of this paper which should 
be fit for writing on but not written, and when 
they are dry begin again, and bit by bit wet with 
a minever brush and put on the gold, just with the 

of Cennino Cennini 149 

same method and rule, as on a panel with bole ; 
and then, when you have overlaid the whole sheet, 
watch for the right time for burnishing. Have a 
very level stone, or a very smooth board, and on 
that burnish your sheets, and put them aside. And 
with these sheets you can make animals, flowers, 
roses, and many sorts of devices, and it will do you 
great honour; and you do it quickly and well; and 
you can adorn them with any rich colouring in oil 

CHAP. 169. To make crests (cimieri) or helmets for 
tournaments and rectors (? heralds ', rettori). 

In case you have to make any crest or helmet for 
tournaments, or for 'rettori' who have to go before 
the signoria, you must first have white leather, which 
must not be otherwise prepared than with 'mortina, 1 
or, if you like/'cefalonia'; 1 stretch it, and draw your 
crests as you wish it done ; and draw two, and sew 
them together, one with the other, but leave so much 
space on one of the sides, that you can put sand in, 
and with a small stick press it till it is equally full. 
When you have done thus, put it in the sun for a 
good many days ; when it is thoroughly dry, take out 
the sand; then take the size which is used with gesso 
and size it two or three times. Then take gesso 

1 Martina, myrtle ; includes bilberries, used for dyeing yellow. Cefa- 
lonia perhaps stands for Valonia or gall-nuts of Querens Cerris. 
German "Cennino," p. 177.) 

150 The Book of the Art 

grosso (unslaked) ground with size, and mix with 
it some picked tow, and have it stiff like dough ; 
and begin putting on this gesso, sketching with it 
the form of man, animal, or bird, which you have 
to do, making as good a resemblance as possible. 
This being done, take some gesso grosso ground 
with liquid size, and flowing from the brush, and 
with a brush lay three or four coats over this crest. 
Then when it is quite dry, scrape it and smooth it 
as if you were working on a panel. Then, in the 
same way that I explained to you to ground on a 
panel with gesso sottile, put this gesso on the crest. 
When it is dry scrape it and smooth it, and when 
it is needful to make glass eyes put them on with 
gesso used for relief work, and make relief work 
if required. Then, if it has to be gilt or silvered, 
put on bole, as on a panel, and similarly as to 
everything else, including colouring ; varnishing it 
in the accustomed manner. 

CHAP. 170. How to work on coffers or chests ', and 
the manner of ornamenting and painting them. 

Supposing you wish to work on.coffers or chests, and 
to do them really well, ground them with gesso, and 
observe the whole method of working on a panel, as to 
putting on gold, painting, engraving, ornamenting, and 
varnishing, so I need not go over each point at length. 

of Cennino Cennini 151 

If you wish to decorate other coffers of less value, 
size them first, and glue cloth on the cracks, which 
you do also to the others above described ; but 3'ou 
ground these first with the float (stecca) and (? or) 
with the brush, with well-sifted wood-ashes, and the 
usual size. When it is grounded and dry, smooth 
it and, if you like, ground (or prime) it with gesso 

If you wish to ornament with certain figures of 
tin or with other devices, observe this method, which 
is : have a fine stone, flat and hard (inacignd), and 
on this stone cut out any pattern you like, or get 
it cut for you a very slight hollow is enough. Here 
cut out figures, animals, devices, flowers, stars, roses, 
of any fashion that you fancy. Then have beaten 
tin, whichever you like, whether yellow, or whether 
white, in several folds, and lay it over the impression 
that you want to print. Then have a lump of wet 
tow, squeeze it and lay it over this tin; and have 
in the other hand a mallet, not too heavy, of willow- 
wood, and beat on this tow, collecting it and turning 
it with the other hand; and when you have beaten 
it enough and it shows perfectly every incision beneath, 
take gesso grosso, ground with rather stiff size, and 
with a spatula (stecca) put some over this beaten 
tin. When you have done this take a small knife, 
and with the point catch hold of one bit of the tin, 
separate it and lift it up, then again with your stecca 

152 The Book of the Art 

and your gesso in the same way find and separate 
another piece of tin. Make so many in this way 
that you will have amply enough, and put them to 
dry. When they are dry have a very sharp-pointed 
knife, and putting these tin pieces one at a time on 
a very flat walnut board, cut away all the tin which 
projects beyond the outline of your figure, and in 
this way make what quantity you want of them. 

When you have primed and laid the ground colour 
of your chests, according to rule, with whatever colour 
you like, take some of the usual glue, but stronger, 
and thoroughly wet the gesso of your figures and 
devices, and immediately stick on and arrange (these 
figures) in the space to be painted on the chest, and 
with a minever brush outline and put in some flat 
colouring (coloruzzo ? tinting), then varnish the whole 
ground. When it is dry take a beaten white of egg, 
and with a sponge dipped in this white (glaire) rub 
all over the varnish, and then with other colours do 
line work and ornamentation J on the said ground with 
whatever colour you like, so in part varying the ground 
colour ; and I will not speak of this at greater length, 
because if you are expert and practised in great things, 
you will know how to do well in small things ; and 
next I will tell you how to work upon glass. 

1 VtLfalliando e adornando. Falliare, according to Milanesi, means 
drawing with fine lines. An enrichment in strong body colour, like 
a lace or brocade design, showing the ground colour between the lines, 
seems to be the kind of thing intended, 

of Cennino Cennini 153 

CHAP. 17 1 . How windows are painted on glass. 

Painting on glass is done in two ways, that is, 
upon windows, and upon pieces of glass which are 
used on small pictures, or in the adornment of 
reliquaries. It is best we should speak first about 
the method for windows. It is true that this art 
is little practised by our craft, but more by those 
who work specialty at it 5 and commonly those mas- 
ters who work at it have more practical knowledge 
than design, and on account of their half knowledge, 
and for guidance in drawing, they will come to him 
whose art is complete and universal, and who has 
practice. Therefore when they come to you do thus. 
He will come to you with the measure of his window, 
the breadth and the length. You will take as many 
sheets of paper glued together as Will be needful for 
your window. And you will draw your figure first 
with charcoal, then you will fix it with ink, your 
figure being completely shaded as if you were drawing 
it on a panel Then your master glass-worker takes 
this drawing and spreads it on a table or board, large 
and flat, and according as he wishes to colour the 
draperies, so bit by bit he cuts the glasses, and gives 
you a paint which is made 6f well-ground cuttings 
of copper ; and with this paint, with a small-pointed 
minever brush, piece by piece you paint the shadows 
on the glass, matching the folds together and the 

154 The Book of the Art 

other parts of the figure according as the master has 
cut the pieces and laid them together ; and with this 
paint you can always shade on every kind of glass. 
Then the master, before joining the pieces together, 
as is the custom, bakes them moderately in iron cases 
on hot coals, and then joins them together. You can 
paint on such glass silk stuffs, hatch and relieve with 
fine line-work (vitigare e palliare), and make lettering, 
that is, lay a field of the said paint (or colour) and 
then scratch or etch the drawing (grattare) as on 
a panel. There is this advantage, that it is not 
necessary to paint the ground colour, as glass can 
be had of every colour. And if it should happen 
to you to have to make very tiny figures, or arms, 
or devices so small that the glass could not be cut, 
when you have shaded with the above-mentioned 
pigment, you can paint a few draperies and hatch 
with oil-colours ; and this need not be baked, neither 
must it be done, for nothing would be gained by it, 
but let it dry in the sun as it pleases. 

CHAP. 172. How mosaic work is done for the adorn- 
ment of reliquaries, and of the mosaic of quills 
of feathers and of egg-skefo. 

There is another way of working in glass, charming, 
lovely, and rare as can be imagined, which is a branch 
of art in devout use for the adornments of holy 

of Cennino Cennini 155 

reliquaries, and it demands sure and ready design; 
and this is the manner of the work, thus : take a piece 
of white glass, not greenish, very clear, without bubbles, 
and wash it with lye and charcoal, rub it and rinse 
it again with clean water, and leave it alone to dry ; 
but before you wash it cut it to whatever shape you 
want. Then take the white of a fresh egg ; and with 
a very clean whisk, break it up, as you do for laying 
on gold ; let it be well beaten, and let it distil for a 
night. Then take a minever brush, and with the 
brush and the egg-clear, wet the glass on the back 
side, and when it is wetted equally take a piece of 
gold-leaf, which must be thick, that is to say, dead 
gold (appannato). Put it on the parchment tray 
(paletta di carta) and gently put it on the wetted 
glass ; and with a piece of very clean cotton-wool 
press it gently down, not letting the egg-white get 
over the gold. And in this way gild all the glass. 
When it is quite dry, take a very flat tablet of wood, 
lined with black linen or canvas, and go into your 
little workroom where no one can disturb you at all, 
and which should have only one linen-covered window 
(Jinestra zmpannata). Put your table at this window 
as if for writing, so that the window is over your 
head, and stand with your face turned towards the 
window ; the glass being laid out on the before-men- 
tioned black cloth. Then take a needle bound to a 
small stick, like a little minever brush, which must 

156 The Book of the Art 

have a very fine point ; and invoking the name of God, 
begin drawing lightly with this needle the figure which 
you wish to make ; let the first drawing be very faint, 
for you can efface nothing; so make your drawing 
light as well as firm ; then go on working as if you 
were drawing with a pen ; for the whole work is done 
with the point ; and do you see how you must have 
a light hand and not tired, for the deepest shade 
which you can make is only to go with the point of 
the needle quite down to the glass, and moreover the 
half shade is just not quite penetrating the gold, which 
is a delicate matter ; and this work must not be done 
in haste, but with great delight and pleasure. And I 
give you this advice: that the day before you wish 
to work at such works, you should hold your hand 
to your neck and breast, to have it well rested from 
fatigue, and moderate in blood. 

Having made your design, you must scrape away 
certain spaces which are usually painted with ultra- 
marine blue in oil. Do this with a leaden style, 
rubbing over the gold which comes clean away, and 
cutting sharp round the outlines of the figure. When 
this is done take other colours ground in oil, such as 
ultramarine blue, black, verdigris, and lake: and if 
you wish any garment or lining to gleam with green, 
(che risprende in verde) paint in green ; or With lake, 
paint in lake ; or with black, put in black. But black 
has more force and sculptures your figures better than 

of Cennino Cennini 157 

any other colour : then with something flat beat and 
press your little figures into the gesso, so that the whole 
may be quite level. And this is how this work is done. 
For this and other fine kinds of work, quills of 
feathers can be used cut up very small, like millet, 
and dyed as I have said; you can also make mosaic 
in this way. Take your egg-shells well crushed 
(peste) but white, and lay a ground of these all over 
the figure which you have drawn; fill it with these, 
working as if they were coloured pieces: and then 
when you have put in the flat colouring with the suit- 
able paints from your colour-box, tempered with a 
little white of egg, paint the figure bit by bit, just as 
you would on gesso, but with watery transparent 
colours (pur cPacquerelle di colore) ; and then when 
it is dry, varnish it as you varnish other things on 
planes. For the background of such figures, just as 
on walls, you should adopt this method, taking gilded 
or silvered sheets, or thick beaten gold, or thick beaten 
silver, cut up in very small pieces, and with pincers 
fill in the ground as you did with your crushed egg- 
shells, wherever gold is required in the background. 
Also you can make the background with pieces of 
white egg-shell, wetting it with whipped white of egg, 
the same as you put gold on to glass with ; wet it in 
the same way. Put on what gold the background 
wants, let it dry and burnish with cotton-wool, and 
this is enough for mosaic or Greek work. 

158 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 173. The way to work on cloth by printing 
from a shape in colour (lavorare colla forma 
dipinti in panno). 

As to the art of the brush yet appertains certain 
painting on linen cloth used for skirts (garnellt) of 
boys and children, and for certain church adornments 
(leggi\ this is the way to do them. 

Have a frame made, as if for a linen-covered 
window, two ells (braccid) long, and one ell wide, 
covered on the laths with linen, or canvas. When 
you want to paint your linen (pannolino), any quantity, 
six or twenty ells, roll it all up, and put the top end 
of the stuff upon the frame; also have a board of 
walnut or pearwood, any way of a strong kind of 
wood, the size of a brick, which tablet must have 
designed and hollowed on it a wide band, in which 
must be designed, in the manner of any sort of silk 
stuff you like, either leaves or animals ; and let the 
design be so arranged and engraved on the block that 
all four faces may match together to make a complete 
and connected pattern, and there must be a handle to 
be able to lift it. Put it on the other surface which 
is not engraved (intagliatd). When you want to work 
take a glove for the left hand/and first grind some 
pine charcoal, very finely, with water. Then having 
thoroughly dried it at the sun or fire, grind it again 
dry, and mix it with liquid varnish, as much as is 

of Cennino Cennini 159 

needful ; and with a small ladle (mestoletta) take some 
of this black and spread it out on the palm of the 
hand, that is, over the glove ; and so smear it on the 
board where it is engraved, carefully, so that the 
engraving is not choked. Now, begin putting it (the 
engraved tablet) regularly and equally upon the cloth 
stretched upon the frame, putting it underneath ; take 
in the right hand a shield-shaped board (scudella 
or scudellino\ and with the back of it rub hard 
over the part where the tablet is engraved; and 
when you have rubbed, till you are sure that the 
colour must be well incorporated with the cloth or 
linen, remove your block, put pigment on it again, 
and very methodically replace it, till the whole piece 
of stuff is quite full. This kind of work requires to 
be arranged with some filling colour in parts, to look 
gayer ; therefore you must have colours without body, 
such as yellow, red, and green. Yellow : take saffron 
and beat it well on the fire, and temper it with very 
strong lye. Take a soft, blunt-pointed bristle brush, 
spread the painted cloth on a table or panel (tavola) 
and plan this colour on the animals, and figures, and 
foliage, as seems good to you. Next take Brazil lake 
(logwood) scraped with glass ; put it to soften in lye ; 
boil it with a little rock-alum ; let it boil a little while, 
so that it may have its full crimson colour. Take it 
from the fire that it may not spoil ; then with the same 
brush plan this out in the spaces as you did with the 

160 The Book of the Art 

yellow. Then take verdigris, ground in vinegar, with 
a little saffron, tempered with a little not strong size. 
Plan this into the spaces as you did with the yellow 
and other colours, and let them be arranged as one 
sees in the different creatures, yellows, reds, greens, 
and whites. 

You may also for this work burn linseed oil, as I 
explained previously, and temper this black, which is 
an extremely fine powder, with liquid varnish ; and it 
is an extremely good and fine (sottile) black : but it 
costs more. 

And the same kind of work can be done, on green, 
red, black, yellow, blue, and light blue (biava) cloth. 
If it is green you can work with minium (red lead) 
or cinnabar (vermilion) ground finely with water. 
Dry it, powder it with liquid varnish. Put this colour 
on your glove as you did with black, and work in the 
same way. If it is red cloth, take indigo and biacca 
ground finely with water ; collect it and dry it in the 
sun, then powder it : temper it with liquid varnish in 
the usual way, and work in the same way as you did 
with black. If the cloth is black, you can work upon 
it with light blue (btava), that is, plenty of biacca and 
a little indigo, mixed, ground, and tempered, accord- 
ing to the custom which I have described to you for 
the other colours. If the cloth is light blue, take 
biacca ground and dried again, and tempered accord- 
ing to the method used for the other colours. And 

of Cennino Cennini 161 

speaking generally, according as the grounds are, you 
can find variations of these colourings, lighter or 
darker, which to your fancy it seems you can put 
together, and one thing will teach you another, both 
by practice, and by the knowledge given by your in- 
telligence. The reason ? that every art is in its nature 
ingenious and pleasing : chi ne piglia se riha (he that 
takes, hath). And similarly the contrary happens. 

CHAP. 174. To overlay a stone figure with burnished 

It befalls at times that the worker in one art seeks 
to know fully how to work at everything, especially 
at things which can bring honour. Therefore I will 
explain to you such a thing, not so much that it is 
usual, as because I have tried it myself. So should 
there come to your hands a stone figure either large 
or small, and you should wish to overlay it with 
burnished gold, follow this method. Dust and clean 
your figure thoroughly ; then take ordinary size, that 
is, the same with which you temper the gesso for 
panels, and make it boil well ; and when it is boiling 
put some over this figure once or twice, and let it get 
quite dry. After this take oak male oak (rovere) 
charcoal ; pound it ; take a tammy sieve (tamigid) and 
sift away the powder from the charcoal. Then take 
a small sieve which grain such as millet (intglto) 

162 The Book of the Art 

would pass through, and sift this charcoal, and put 
these sittings aside, and in this way make as much 
of it as is sufficient. This being done, take cooked 
linseed oil, made properly for making mordants, and 
mix in it a third part of liquid varnish. Then make 
everything boil well together. When it is very hot, 
take a vessel and put into it the small-sifted charcoal : 
after that put in this mordant : mix them well together, 
and with a hog's-bristle, or big minever brush, lay it 
on equally in every part over the whole figure or other 
object. When you have done this, put it into a place 
where it will dry thoroughly, either in the wind or in 
the sun, as it pleases you. Your figure being quite 
dry, take some of the same size, and put into, say, a 
glassful of it, one yolk of egg ; mix these well together, 
quite hot; take a piece of sponge, dip it in this 
tempera, not filling the sponge too full, dab and rub 
ov|r every part where you have put on the 'mordant 
with the charcoal. To explain to you why you put 
on such a mordant, the reason is this: Because the 
stone always holds some moisture; when the gesso 
tempered with size feels this, suddenly it rots and 
splinters and spoils ; therefore this oil and varnish is 
the material and means of making the gesso agree with 
the stone, and I will explain the cause to you. The 
charcoal always keeps dry against the humidity of the 
stone. Then wishing to continue your operations; 
take gesso grosso, tempered with size in the manner 

of Cennino Cennini 163 

that you primed the flat part of a panel, except that, 
according to the quantity, I wish you to put in one, 
two, or three yolks of egg, and then with a spatula 
(stecca) put it all over your work ; and if you mix with 
these things a little powder of pounded bricks, it will 
be so much the better ; and put this gesso on with the 
stecca two or three times, and let it get quite dry. 
When it is perfectly dry, scrape it and clean it, as 
you did the panel. Then where you want gold, take 
gesso sottile, and grind and temper this gesso with 
the same size as you did in grounding a panel ; except 
that now it is necessary to put some yolk of egg, not 
so much as you put with the gesso grosso ; and begin 
putting the first coat of it on your work, rubbing it 
perfectly smooth with the hand. Over this coat put 
on four to six more with the brush, as you laid the 
gesso on the panel, in the same manner, and with the 
same care. This done, and well dried, scrape' it 
lightly; then put on tempered bole, the same as on 
a panel, and observe also the same method of putting 
on gold, and of burnishing with the stone or tooth. 
And this is as important a part of this art as can 
possibly be. And if it happen that any of your 
work, thus overlaid with gold, has to run the risk of 
getting wet, you can varnish it ; it is not so beautiful, 
but much stronger. 

164 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 175. In what way the damp of a wall may 
be remedied, where painting has to be done on it. 

It falls within the scope of this same art, to be 
obliged sometimes to find a remedy where paintings 
are done on damp walls : to provide which judgment 
and experience are necessary. You must know that 
damp operates on a wall, as oil does on a panel : as 
damp corrupts lime, so oil corrupts gesso and its 
temperas; and it is clear that this damp may do 
great injury. As I told you before, the most noble 
and most enduring tempera there can be on a wall 
is working in fresco, that is, upon the fresh lime ; and 
know that in front on the face of the wall, rain may 
pour down, and will never do any harm; but rain 
behind on the other face of the wall is the very 
mischief (forte dannificd), or indeed every drop that 
falls on the uncovered top of the wall ; but you can 
find a remedy, namely: first to examine the place 
where you are going to work and see whether the 
wall is sound, and have it perfectly well covered 
(coped ?). And if it is in a position where water goes 
in a conduit which cannot be diverted, adopt this plan. 
Whatever stone the wall is bui^t of, take linseed oil 
cooked as for mordants, mix and grind it with pounded 
bricks ; but first with a brush or rag put on the wall 
a coat of very hot oil or mordant. Afterwards take 
this paste of pounded bricks and lay it on the wall, 

of Cennino Cennini 165 

so as to leave a very rough surface (rasposd) ; let 
it dry for some months until it is very dry, then with 
a trowel take very fresh lime prepared with gall nuts 
(calcina ben fresca di galld), as much lime as sand, 
and mix with it sifted powder of pounded bricks, and 
plaster with this very carefully once or twice, not 
worrying the plaster, and leaving it with a roughened 
surface. Then when you want to paint and work 
upon it, plaster it with your fine intonaco, as I ex- 
plained to you before about the way to work on walls. 

CHAP. 176. Of two other methods useful for the same 

For the same: first take boiling ship-pitch and rub 
it well into the wall. When you have done this, take 
the same pitch (pegola opece i.e. coarse natural turpen- 
tine resin), and take dry new bricks, pounded ; in same 
way pound them and incorporate them with the said 
pegola ; put some all over the wall, that is, wherever 
there is any damp, and beyond. This is a very 
perfect cement (smalto). Put on the roughing with 
lime, as I told you and explained before. 

Again, for the same purpose : have a quantity of 
boiling liquid varnish, and put a priming on the face 
of the damp wall, and then put on pounded brick 
mixed with this varnish; this is a very perfect and 
good remedy. 

166 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 177. Of painting rooms or loggie with verde- 
terra in secco. 

Sometimes rooms are decorated or beneath loggie 
or balconies, which is not always done in fresco; for 
the plastering may have been done a long time. If 
you wish to work in green, take verde-terra well 
ground, and tempered with grounding size, not too 
strong, and put it on two or three times over the 
whole ground with a big bristle-brush ; when you have 
done this and it is dry, draw with charcoal as on a 
panel, and outline your designs with ink or if you 
like with black paint, that is, vine-charcoal well ground 
and tempered with egg, or if you like with the yolk 
and white of the egg together. Having brushed away 
the charcoal, take a large pan or basin of water, or 
if you like ' metadella ' (scoop, pint), as they say in 
Tuscany. After that put in as it might be a spoonful 
of honey, and beat it all well together. This being 
done, take a sponge, and dip it in this water; 
squeeze it a little, and go with it over the whole 
ground which has been laid in with green ; then with 
a water-colour of black, put on your shadows very 
delicately, transparent and well ^softened. Then take 
biacca ground and tempered, with the said tempera 
of egg described above, and draw the figures in with 
white, as is required in this kind of art. Then on 
these figures you can put some colouring (coloruzzo) 

of Cennino Cennini 167 

differing from the green, as ochre, cinabrese, and 
orpiment, and adorn with borders and also put on 
backgrounds of azure. And note that this kind of 
work can also be done on panels, or on walls in 
fresco, plastering, and then putting in the ground with 
this verde-terra, and doing the white drawing with 
bianco sangiovanni. 

CHAP. 178. How a panel painted with verde-terra 
can be varnished. 

You will find some persons who will require 
you to varnish panels which they have got you to 
paint in green. I tell you that it is not the custom, 
and that verde-terra does not require it; but oblige 
them if they want it. So adopt this method: take 
scrapings of parchment, boil them well with clean 
water, to make size, the usual tempera, then with a 
large minever brush, pass it two or three times over 
your figures or scenes, wherever you mean to varnish 
it. When you have given two coats of the size, which 
must be very clear and bright, and which you must 
strain twice, let your work dry for the space of three 
or four days. Then you may pass your varnish safely 
over the whole, and you will find that verde-terra 
in this way will take varnish the same as other 

168 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 179. How, having painted a human face, to 
wash off and clean away the colours. 

Sometimes, in the practice of art, it will happen 
to you to have to tint or paint on flesh, especially 
to colour the face of a man or of a woman. You 
may temper your colours with yolk of egg, or if 
you desire, for the sake of counterfeiting, 1 with oil, 
or with liquid varnish, which is the most powerful 
tempera there is. But should you wish to remove 
the colours or tempera from the face, take the yolk 2 of 
an egg and little by little rub it on the face with the 
hand; then take clean water that has been boiled 
on bran, and wash the face with it; then take more 
of the yolk of egg, and again rub the face with it, 
and again wash it with the warm water. We will 
not talk of this subject any more. 

CHAP. 1 80. Why women should abstain from using 
medicated waters on their skins. 

It might happen in the service of youthful ladies, 
especially those of Tuscany, to have to make some 
colour of which they are desirous, and use to make 
themselves beautiful, and certain waters/ But the 
Paduan women do not use them, and not to give 

1 Perhaps for actors and mimics. 

8 Yolk of egg is a solvent to some resins. 

of Cennino Cennini 169 

them cause for finding fault with me, and as it is 
also displeasing to God and our Lady, I shall be 
silent. But I advise you, if you desire to preserve 
your complexion for a long period, to be accus- 
tomed to wash yourself with water from fountains, 
rivers, or wells ; and I warn you that if you use any 
artificial preparation, your face will soon become 
withered and your teeth black, and in the end women 
get old before the natural course of time, and become 
the ugliest old hags possible. This is quite sufficient 
to say on this subject. 

CHAP. 181. Showing how useful it is to take casts 
from the life. 

Now it seems to me that I have said enough on 
colouring of all kinds. I will now touch upon another 
subject, which is very useful, and gains honour for 
your drawing in portraying and imitating natural 

CHAP. 182. How to take a cast of the face of a man 
or woman. 

Would you take a cast of the face of a man or 
woman, of whatever rank ? Then adopt this method. 
Let a young man, or woman, or an old man come to 
you, and let the beard be shaved ; for the hair and 
beard are difficult to do. Then with a large minever 

170 The Book of the Art 

brush anoint the face with some oil of roses, or 
other sweet-smelling oil; put on the head a cap or 
hood, and provide a band, about a span wide and as 
long as from one shoulder to the other, going round 
the head over the cap, and sew the edge of it round 
the cap (beretta) from one ear to the other. Put into 
the hole of each ear a piece of cotton, and having 
drawn the edge of the said band tight, sew it to the 
end of the collar and give a half-turn in the middle of 
the shoulder, and turn it to the buttons in front. Do 
the same to the other shoulder, then unite the ends 
of the band. Having done this, place the man or 
woman flat on a carpet, a table, or large board. Get 
a hoop of iron of the width of one or two fingers, 
with some teeth above like a saw. Put this hoop, 
which is to be two or three fingers longer than the 
face, round the face of the person; let it be held 
by your associate, suspended away from the face, 
that it may not touch the person. Take the band 
and turn it round and round, putting the end of it 
which had not been sewn into the teeth of the hoop, 
then fastening it between the flesh and the hoop, so 
that the hoop shall be beyond the band, and leave 
about the width of two fingers or less between the 
band and the flesh, according to the thickness you 
wish the casting to be, for I tell you this is where 
you have to throw the plaster in. 

of Cennino Cennini 171 

- ', 

CHAP. 183. How to enable a person to breathe, from 
whose face a cast is being taken. 

You must get a goldsmith to make two small tubes 
of brass or silver, which are to be round above, and 
more open below, like a trumpet, each about a span 
long, and as large round as a finger, made as light 
as possible. The other end must be made the same 
shape as the nostril, but just so much smaller as to 
enter the nostrils, fitting them exactly, without forcing 
the nose open at all. Let a small hole be pierced 
through the middle of each, and bind them together. 
But at the foot where they enter the nose, let them 
be fixed firmly at the same distance from one another 
as the distance there is from one nostril to another. 

CHAP. 1 84. How the mould is thrown in gesso from 
the living person, and how it is taken off, and how 
it is cast in metal. 

This being done, let the man (or woman) remain 
lying down, and let him put these tubes into his 
nostrils and hold them himself with his hand. Have 
prepared, some Bolognese gesso or volteranno, burnt, 
fresh, and well sifted. Have near you some tepid 
water in a basin, and quickly put this gesso into this 
water. Do it quickly, for it sets quickly, and make it 
neither too liquid nor too little so. With a drinking 

172 The Book of the Art 

glass, take some of this mixture, and pour it round 
the face. Cover it equally, but keep the eyes to cover 
last of all the face. Make him keep his mouth and 
eyes closed ; not squeezed tight, which is not neces- 
sary, but as if he slept, and when the space is filled 
up to a finger's-breadth above the nose, let it remain 
quiet a little while till it is ready. And bear in mind, 
that if the person from whom you are taking a mould 
is of high rank, as a lord, a king, a pope, an emperor, 
you must mix the gesso with tepid rose-water; and 
for other persons, any spring, well, or river water, 
tepid, suffices. 1 When your plaster is dry and set, 
gently with pen-knife, knife, or scissors, unsew all 
round the band which you sewed on: draw out the 
tubes from the nose carefully, make him get up and 
stand or sit, and he himself holding the plaster which 
is over his face, managing his face carefully, draw him 
out of this mask or mould. Set it aside and keep it 
carefully. This part of the task being accomplished, 
take a child's bandage (fascia da putti) and wind it 
all round the mould so that the bandage 2 projects 
two fingers'-breadths beyond the edge of the mould. 
Take a large minever brush ; and with whatever oil 
you like, anoint the inside of^the mould with great 
care, so that you may not accidentally injure any part, 

1 Plaster of Paris is usually mixed with very thin size to prevent the 
casting setting too rapidly. 
8 (Swaddling band ?). 

of Cennino Cennini 173 

and mix the plaster the same as before ; and if you 
would mix with it some pounded brick it would be 
a good deal better. Then with a glass or porringer 
take some of this gesso and put it into the mould, 
and hold it over a bench, so that as you put in the 
gesso you tap the mould lightly with the other hand 
on the bench, so that the gesso should be caused to 
enter equally into every crevice, as sealing-wax fills 
the seal, and that there should be neither bubbles nor 
hollows. When the mould is full, let it alone for half 
a day, or, at most, one day. Take a small hammer, 
and with care, feel and break the outside husk, that 
is to say the original mould, but in such a way that 
neither the nose nor anything else may be broken. 
To make the mould easier to break, before you fill 
it, take a saw and saw it in several places on the out- 
side. But mind not to saw through, which would be 
a misfortune. You will then be able, when it is full, 
to break it dexterously in pieces with light strokes 
of the hammer. Thus you will have the effigy or 
physiognomy or cast of that great lord. And know 
that once you have got such a mould, you can 
cast from it with copper, metal, bronze, gold, silver, 
lead, and indeed with any metal you wish. But 
get capable masters, who understand founding and 

i?4 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 185. How to take a mould of the whole figure 
of a man or woman or an animal, and to cast 
from the mould in metal. 1 

You must know that in the above way, following 
the best teaching, I inform you that you may mould 
and cast the whole figure, like the many naked antique 
figures which we find. You must get a naked man or 
woman, and let the person stand upright in a sort of 
box or case, which will reach as high as the chin, and 
let the case be joined together, or rather let it come 
apart altogether in the middle of one side and down 
the length of the other. Let a very thin copper plate 
be placed against the middle of the shoulders, be- 
ginning at the (level of) the ears down to the bottom 
of the case, and let it follow the outlines of the naked 
person's body without hurting him, just not touching 
the flesh; and let this metal sheet be fixed in the 
corner where the case is joined together ; and in this 
way fix four sheets of metal going to the corners of 
the chest. Then grease the naked person, put him 
upright into the case; mix a quantity of plaster 
abundantly with tepid water, and take care to have 
an assistant with you ; and white you pour the plaster 
in front of the man, let the assistant fill the back part 

1 This chapter is very difficult to understand and translate. I 
think the directions are insufficient or the process unworkable. The 
mould would not come away from the body without one or the other 
being injured. 

of Cennino Cennini 175 

at the same time, so that it may be filled to his throat ; 
with regard to the face, you may do that another time, 
as I have told you before. Let the plaster rest until 
it is quite stiff; then open the case where it is joined, 
insert tools and chisels into the corners where the 
copper or iron plates join the case, and open it like 
a nut, holding on either side the sides of the case with 
the mould you have made. 1 

Withdraw the naked person very gently from it; 
wash him carefully with clean water, for his flesh 
will be as red as a rose. And as when you moulded 
the face, you may make a cast with any metal you 
please ; but I recommend you to make it of wax, for 
this reason, that the mould may be broken without 
the figure sticking to it, and you may take away and 
add, and make any repairs where the figure is defec- 
tive. After this you may join the head on, and make 
a cast of the whole person. You may similarly cast 
any member separately, an arm, a hand, a foot, a leg, 
a bird, a beast, or any kind of animal or fish. But the 
animals must be dead, because they have neither the 
sense nor firmness to stand still. 

1 Adhering to each side of the case, I suppose, and divided into 
sections by the copper plates. 

i?6 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 1 86. How to make a mould from your 
own body^ and then cast from the model in 

You may also make a model of a person in this 
manner. Have made a quantity either of mixed plaster 
(or dough) or wax, well stirred and clean, of the con- 
sistence of ointment and very soft; spread it on a 
large table (board) such as a dining-board (i.e. the top 
without the trestles), and put this on the ground. 
Spread the plaster (or dough?) or wax on it to the 
height of half a braccio. Then throw yourself upon 
it in any attitude you please, either forward or back- 
ward, or on one side. And if this paste take the 
impression well, you must get yourself extricated from 
it dexterously quite straight, so as not to pull it about. 
Then let the mould dry. When dry you may cast 
from it with lead. Do the other side of your person 
(the opposite side to that which you have done) in the 
same manner. Then join them together, and fill them 
both with lead or other metal. 

CHAP. 187. To make moulds of small figures in lead 
and to multiply the plaster casts. 

If you would make casts of small figures in lead or 
other metal, oil your figures, take impressions in wax 
and cast from them with anything you please ; also, if 

of Cennino Cennini 177 

on your panel you want something in relief, such as 
heads of men, lions, or other animals or small figures. 
Let the mould you have made in wax dry ; then oil it 
well with salad or lamp-oil. Take gesso sottile or 
gesso grosso ground with a little strong size. Fill 
the mould with this warm plaster and let it cool. 
When cold, separate the plaster a little from the 
mould with your knife. Blow very hard upon the 
separated part. Take up your little figure (figurettd) 
with your hand, and it is done. And in this manner 
you may make as many as you like. Keep them, 
and remember that they are better made in winter 
than in summer. 

CHAP. 1 88. How to make impressions of medals 
(santelene) 1 in wax or paste. 

You may, if you please, take impressions of coins 
in wax or plaster. Let them dry and then melt some 
sulphur and fill these moulds with it, and it is done ; 
but if you would cast with plaster mix with it some 
ground minium, that is to say, some of the dry powder 
with the paste, and make it of the consistence which 
suits you. 

1 Santaltna any sort of medal bearing the image of a saint, 
because anciently it was generally the countenance of the Empress 
St. Helena. Milauesi. 

i?8 The Book of the Art 

CHAP. 189. How to take impressions of a seal or 
coin, with a paste made of ashes. 

If you would take very perfect impressions of a seal 
or ducat, or any other money, adopt this plan, and 
set great value on it, for it is an excellent method. 
Take a basin half full of clean water, or quite full, as 
you please. Take half a pipkin full of (wood) ashes. 
Throw them into the basin, and stir them with the 
hand. Let the mixture rest a little, and before the 
water becomes quite clear, throw it into another 
basin; do this several times, and I recommend you 
to put in what ashes you want at the first. Then 
wait until the water is quite clear, and the ashes 
settled at the bottom. Draw off the water, and dry 
the ashes in the sun, or as you please. Then grind 
them with salt dissolved in water, making a sort of 
plaster. Then on this paste take impressions of seals, 
medals (santelene), figurines, coins, or in general of 
anything of which you desire impressions. This done, 
let the paste dry gradually without sun or fire. You 
may pour on this paste melted lead, silver, or any 
metal you please, for the paste is sufficiently tenacious 
to bear a great weight. 

of Cennino Cennini 179 


Praying that the most high God, our Lady, St. John, 
St. Luke the evangelist and painter, St. Eustachius, 
St. Francis and St. Anthony of Padua may give us 
grace and strength to sustain and bear in peace, 
the burdens and fatigues of this world ; and that to 
whomsoever may study this book, they will give grace, 
to study it well and remember it, so that by the 
sweat of their brows, they may live peaceably, and 
maintain their families in this world with grace, and 
finally in that which is to come, in glory, per infinite 
secula seculorum. 

Finito libro referamus gratias Xpo 1437. 
A dl 31 d luglio ex Stincarum ec. 

Note. In the Codex Riccardiano^ in place of "Finito libro ec.," we 

" Laus Deo et beate Marie semper Virgini." 

"Concorda il tuo voler con quel di Dio 
verra ti compiuto ogni disio 
Se poverta ti stringe o doglia senti 
Va in su la croce a Christ o per unguenti." 



AT the present time most interest will be felt in the 
tempera teachings of the Trattato, as it is the earliest 
work that really treats of this way of painting written 
when in Italy practically all pictures were painted in 
this way or in fresco. Later writers write only much 
later when it was superseded by oil. Vasari uses the 
word "tempera" as equivalent to yolk of egg; so 
do Armenini and others; and when a picture is said 
to be painted in tempera, this is strictly what is meant, 
though size was used as an occasional adjunct. It 
is not always easy, or even possible, to say whether 
a varnished tempera picture is tempera or not, and 
Ruskin once admitted that he had for a long time 
been holding up for admiration as the finest oil- 
painting what he finally discovered to be tempera. 
Till recently Vasari's statements about the method 
employed by each painter have been accepted almost 
without question, but also without intelligent com- 

Cennino used the simple yolk of egg for panel-paint- 
ing and for fresco secco, and for the latter, thought less 

well of the whole egg diluted with fig-milk. Vasari, 


184 Mediaeval Methods 

writing when tempera was nearly obsolete, only used 
by archaic Greek ecclesiastical painters, makes an addi- 
tion to the vehicle, which may perhaps be accounted 
for by his describing what was still in common use 
for the secco finishing of fresco. These 'Greeks' 
and the early successors of Cimabue tempered their 
colours " with yolk of egg or tempera, which is this : 
they took an egg and they beat it up, and with it they 
ground the tender branch of a fig, so that milk with 
that egg made the tempera of the colours with which 
they painted their pictures," l being exactly Cennino's 
way of preparing the whole egg for secco. I have not 
found a single other instance of the milk of fig-shoots 
being added to the yolk of egg, though occasionally 
it was mixed with the whole egg or with the white 
used alone. It acts as a solvent. Neither does wine 
seem to have been much used or vinegar, except with 
both white of egg and gum in missal-painting. Wine 
was sometimes used alone to dilute certain transparent 
colours both in missal-painting and in fresco. In the 
addenda to Theophilus of the Harleian Codex (B.M.) 
wine is recommended as an addition to egg for a few 
colours. This refers to painting in books. Blue J 
wine with the glaire or white of egg. Greek green 
(verdigris) yolk and mead or wine and water. Blue 
earth (?) yolk and white with wine and water. In 
the accounts quoted by Eastlake of the painting of 
the Mews at La Cherringe (Charing), a large establish- 
ment, where the King's Falconers resided, there is the 
only specific entry of eggs being bought for painting 

1 Introduzione alle tre Arti (Vasari). 

Italian Tempera 185 

that seems known at all. Besides eggs a large quantity 
of white wine, size, and honey were bought for the 
painters. We cannot tell how these things were 
mixed. Honey and vinegar were used to mix with 
size. (See Strasburg MS.) 

Vasari alludes in the Introduzione to the occasional 
use of size instead of egg. In his notice of Cennino 
in the Life of Agnolo Gaddi, he says that he " wrote 
with his own hand on the methods of painting in 
fresco, in tempera, in size, and in gum," each being 
evidently considered by him a distinct process. It is 
probable that very small stippled painting like Fra 
Angelico's, or like our Wilton Triptych and the 
Westminster Retable, may have been done with 
white of egg alone, or in combination with gum. 
The cracking of the latter (the Retable) is not at all 
like yolk of egg. The paintings in Cologne by Meister 
Wilhelm (?) could not, I think, be reproduced by yolk- 
of-egg tempera. 

We should hesitate before throwing doubt on 
Vasari's consistent statements that nothing had been 
found that gave tempera the blending and slow-drying 
qualities of oil. All attempts at such mixtures with 
the egg failed. A passage in the Life of Antonella da 
Messina proves this, and points out the recognised 
shortcomings of the method: "Continuing to work 
on panels and on cloths not otherwise painted than 
in tempera, which method was begun by Cimabue in 
1250 when he was in company of those Greeks, and 
then continued by Giotto and others, about whom we 
have been telling so far ; they went on with the same 

i86 Mediaeval Methods 

method although the painters knew that in these 
tempera pictures the work was lacking in a certain 
softness and vivacity which, had they attained to it, 
would have given more grace to the design, more 
charm to the colouring, and greater ease in blending 
the colours together, for they had been accustomed to 
hatch their work with the point of the brush. But 
although many had, reasoning on it, searched for such 
a thing, no one had found any good way, neither by 
using varnish nor other kinds of colours l mixed with 
the temperas. And among many who tried such 
things but in vain were Alessio, Baldovinetti, Pesello, 
and many others, and none of these succeeded in pro- 
ducing works of that beauty and goodness which they 
had imagined. And even if they had found what 
they sought, the method was wanting to them of 
rendering figures on panels durable like those on 
walls, also the way to wash them without re- 
moving the colour, and that they should stand con- 
cussion in being handled. Many artists, meeting 
together, had frequently discussed these things with- 
out result." 2 

It seems, therefore, mqre than probable that the 
soft and blended and even transparent effects, where 
the tempera painters really attained the possible love- 
liness of their technique, were the result of skill in 
handling and were not produced by mixtures with the 
egg-vehicle or by any substitute. Evidence is against, 

1 The word colore was not strictly limited to a coloured pigment, 
but sometimes meant any substance used in making up a compound to 
be applied with a paint-brush. 

8 Translated from Milanesi's Vasari (Life of Antonella da Messina). 

Italian Tempera 187 

not for Sir Charles Eastlake's and similar conjectures 
that these quantities were obtained by the addition 
of something to make the egg dry slowly. I imagine 
he was probably thinking especially of Filippo Lippi's 
Annunciation (presented by him to the nation), admir- 
able in all these qualities, but perfectly to be rendered 
with egg-tempera, when he says : l " The paintings of 
Filippo Lippi, at once finished and free, indicate the 
use of a medium which did not dry rapidly (tempera 
does). This requisite in the tempera vehicle may have 
been secured not merely by the mixture of honey, 
(which Eastlake severely condemns as used to make 
grounds pliant according to the early Anglo-German 
process), but by the combination of wax with glutinous 
vehicles, as exemplified in Le Hague's receipt." 

Egg sets rather than dries, and to be solid must be 
painted and left undisturbed. Honey was principally 
used to mix with gum and white of egg in miniature 
painting. Its moisture-attracting properties would pre- 
vent these from becoming too harsh and hard for the 
pages of a book. For the same reason probably it was 
used in the gesso grounds under the gilding on parch- 
ment. I cannot recall that it was ever used with yolk 
of egg. The combination of wax and size is only met 
with in two recipes (see p. xxxiv). The objection to 
seriously considering any size mixture as a vehicle for 
fine work is the clogging of the brush, but that it was 
used to some extent in the very same picture with 
yolk of egg is certain. We need not go further than 
Cennino for proof. 

1 " Materials," note to p. 219. 

i88 Mediaeval Methods 

This Annunciation of Filippo's may be taken as a 
guide in tempera technique. The effects are just 
what tempera can do; they are the natural beauties 
of the method. 

I do not believe for a moment that the dissatisfac- 
tion which Vasari says the painters felt was universal. 
Much of the painting of the fifteenth century has that 
intrinsic beauty which comes when we enjoy the 
material we work with, and feel that we have in our 
hands the means of success, and are not desirous 
of other means. The northern innovations certainly 
perplexed and startled the Florentines at first, they 
were better understood in Venice; there they quite 
altered the character and aims of painting. Pollainolo's 
St. Sebastian, for instance, in our National Gallery is 
certainly painted with oil colours ; but they are handled 
like tempera colours, and the technique coarsely 
hatched oil is to me decidedly displeasing: the 
general effect is like tempera covered with a dis- 
coloured varnish. What painting would have resulted 
from the humanising tendencies of the Renaissance 
how would art have developed, if only the old materials 
had continued in use ?o There can be no doubt that 
the influence of oil-paint was a very profound one, 
very largely owing to the wide spaces of luminous, 
mysterious shadow which it made possible, and the 
encouragement it gave to realistic effects by the great 
ease in producing them. For some reason, for which 
it is difficult to give a satisfactory reason, there is no 
doubt that while fresco and tempera produce a deco- 
rated space in itself pleasant, and figures and other 

Italian Tempera 189 

objects can be suggested in slight chiaroscuro without 
appearing unfinished or crude, this is not the case in 
oil-painting, which seems incapable of giving this 
pleasantness to the surface of a wall, and requires a 
completeness in values, tones, and tactile qualities 
which make the spectator look into the picture and 
forget the surface. Therefore the one art is monu- 
mental, where the surface must not be forgotten or 
obliterated, and the other is on the whole opposed to 
monumental painting. 

Oil once discovered, or rather the way to use it 
becoming known and general, it was, no doubt, found 
to be very convenient. A few years ago I had an 
interesting conversation with Mr. Spencer Stanhope 
in Florence, about tempera. He must have been 
almost the first to return to this method, and has 
painted principally in it for many years. 1 

As he puts it, tempera-painting qud painting has 
never had a decadence, but was suddenly arrested 
in the full tide of youth, by the substitution of oil- 
painting. His opinion was that it had been given 
up principally because it was difficult and trouble- 
some, rather than because of any inferiority. Vasari 
constantly exalts oil-painting at the cost of the 
depreciation of tempera - painting, but he grants 
that besides being beautiful it was a convenience. 
" This discovery of painting in oil was a fine 

1 Two early pictures of his in the possession of Mrs. Rae at Birken- 
head afford an instructive comparison. An oil picture is rent by deep 
fissures -cracks is too mild a word. A tempera picture is as fresh as 
if just painted. 

190 Mediaeval Methods 

invention and a great convenience for the art of 
painting." l 

The sweetness and purity of the earlier tempera 
was hardly appreciated till our own times. Vasari 
attributes superiority in these points to the rival art. 
" This manner of colouring lights up the colours 
better, neither does it need anything but diligence 
and love, because oil by its own virtue makes the 
colouring softer, sweeter, and more delicate, and 
union and blending are easier," &c. Vasari is con- 
tinually half -apologetic when he is describing the 
work of those to-be-pitied painters who lived before 
the great discovery ; as for example when, in speaking 
of a picture by Domenico Ghirlandajo, he says, " than 
which nothing better could be executed in tempera." 
He had the most unbounded admiration for fresco on 
account of the breadth and boldness it required, and 
of its supposed durability, rather than for the more 
refined qualities of colour and drawing which it 
possessed in common with tempera. He might have 
thought more highly of tempera if he had known 
that it has equalled these other methods in perma- 
nence, if even it has not excelled them. Van Eyck's 
painting seems only to have interested him on 
account of its mysterious gloss, which dispensed with 
a final varnish, and from its having initiated the great 
revolution in technique. Its secret was unrevealed 
what was used, and how it was used. Tempera- 
painting was no mystery; "all those details which 

1 "Fu una bellissima invenzione e una gran commodita" (Intro- 
duzione, cxxi.). 

Italian Tempera 191 

were held to be rare and profound secrets in Cennino's 
day being perfectly well known to all artists in these 
our times." 

But the secret of using the secrets was lost already. 
Flemish and German panel-painting with varnish in 
the fifteenth century, and Italian panel-painting with 
yolk of egg were two contemporary and parallel 
developments of the new art-impulse, each offering 
a unique and unsurpassed phase of technique and 
thought. Tempera was not unsatisfactory to the 
aims of fifteenth-century art. It was capable of 
expressing a kind of unfleshly beauty which is not 
easily given with oil paints. Many of the Italians 
gave up their accustomed tempera reluctantly, wedded 
as it was to all their artistic desires and conceptions. 

The qualities aimed at by the early painters, both 
in fresco and in tempera, but especially by the tem- 
pera painters, are well expressed in this passage 
from Ruskin's writings, in the Quarterly Review^ 

"It is to be remembered that the painter's object 
in the backgrounds of works of this period (universally 
or nearly so of religious subjects) was not the decep- 
tive representation of a natural scene, but the adorn- 
ment and setting forth of the central figures with 
precious work : the conversion of the picture as far 
as might be into a gem, flushed with colour and alive 
with light. The processes necessary for this purpose 
were altogether mechanical; and those of stamping 
and burnishing the gold, and of enamelling, were 
necessarily performed before any delicate tempera 

192 Mediaeval Methods 

work could be executed. Absolute decision of design 
was therefore necessary throughout; and hard linear 
separations were unavoidable between the oil-colour 
and the tempera, or between each and the gold or 
enamel. General harmony of effect, aerial perspec- 
tive (the effect of distance given by imitating the 
influence of the atmosphere or deceptive chiaroscuro) 
became totally impossible; and the dignity of the 
picture depended exclusively on the lines of its design, 
the purity of its ornaments, and the beauty of ex- 
pression which could be obtained in those portions 
(the faces and hands) which, set off and framed by 
this splendour of decoration, became the cynosure of 
eyes. The painter's entire energy was given to these 
portions, and we can hardly imagine any discipline 
more calculated to ensure a grand and thoughtful 
school of art than the necessity of discriminating 
character and varied expression imposed by this 
peculiarly separate and prominent treatment of the 
features. The exquisite drawing of the hand also, 
at least in outline, remained, for this reason, even 
to late periods one of the crowning excellences of 
the religious schools. It might be worthy the con- 
sideration of our present painters whether some dis- 
advantage may not result from the exactly opposite 
treatment now frequently adopted, of finishing the 
head before the addition of its accessories. A flimsy 
and indolent background is almost a necessary conse- 
quence, and probably also a false flesh-colour, irre- 
coverable by any after apposition." 

Another passage, from " Modern Painters," may be 

Italian Tempera 193 

said to be in praise of tempera, for is it not the lost 
art which is here spoken of. Clay and oil is unfortu- 
nately often too literally true (see p. 214). 

Of the truth of the open sky. 

"But there are some skies . . . introduced merely 
as backgrounds to the historical subjects of the older 
Italians, which there is no matching in modern times ; 
one would think that angels had painted them, for 
all is now clay and oil in comparison. It seems as 
if we had totally lost the art, for surely otherwise, 
however little our painters might aim at it or feel it, 
they would touch the chord sometimes by accident; 
but they never do. ... But, however they are obtained, 
the clear tones of this kind of the older Italians are 
glorious and enviable in the highest degree; and we 
shall show, when we come to speak of the beautiful, 
that they are one of the most just grounds of the fame 
of the old masters." l 

1 " Modern Painters," I. 207. 



CENNINO'S method of painting with egg will not be 
understood by a mere superficial reading. I have 
therefore put together the various hints as I under- 
stand them myself. Cennino does not set a very high 
value on his own book as capable of giving satisfactory 
instruction. "There are many who say they have 
learned the art without having been with a master. 
Do not believe them, for I give you this very book 
as an example : even studying it day and night, if 
you do not see some practice with some master, you 
will never be fit for anything, nor will you be able 
with a good face to stay among the masters " (c. 104). 
Any one, however, now wishing to learn tempera- 
painting must try to work according to its instructions, 
and will learn best by trying to reproduce faithfully some 
fine piece of old work. The manipulation of tempera 
colours is by no means easy. It is necessary to form an 
ideal of the kind of quality attainable, and to practise 
the attainment of it. Fine quaMty in tempera is diffi- 
cult to understand and produce, just as in oil-painting 
of different kinds Flemish, Venetian, or others. 

It was not the breadth and simplicity of fresco 

that attracted Cennino most strongly, but the daintiness 


Tempera- Pain ting 195 

and finish of tempera on panels. We naturally sup- 
pose from the whole tenor of his writing that he 
was a skilled craftsman, but not an artist of the first 
rank intellectually. He delighted in the ivory smooth- 
ness of the ground (cc. 120, 121), in the glow of the 
highly worked colouring (end of 145 and 146), and 
of the embossed and engraved gilding (96, end of 
138). To all these he begins to introduce us in 
chapter 103. "But we will return, however, to our 
colouring, and from walls pass to panels, or ancone, 
which is the pleasantest and neatest part of our art; 
and bear in mind that he who should learn to work 
first on walls and then on panels will not become as 
perfect a master in the art, as who should happen to 
learn first on panels and then on walls." The next 
chapter is headed (c. 104) "In what manner to ac- 
quire the art of working on a panel," or we might 
translate, "of painting a picture on a panel." Here, 
however, we only find how to make size to mix with 
the gesso, and the processes of priming and polishing 
and gilding and painting itself are not .described till 
chap. 145. " Panels are painted just as I explained 
to you to work in fresco, with three exceptions. One 
is, that you must always paint the draperies and 
buildings before the faces. The second is this, that 
you must always temper your colours with yolk of 
egg, and they must be thoroughly tempered, as much 
yolk as of the colour which you temper. The third 
is, that the colours must be finer, and well ground 
like water." This, I take it, means that they are to 
be ground into an impalpable and liquid paste. As 

196 Mediaeval Methods 

we find in the directions for grinding colours (c. 36) 
that when ground they are to be kept in vessels filled 
with wafer, there would always be a good deal of 
water with the pigment ; and the addition of egg in 
equal quantity to the pigment in this wet state is 
about right for most solid painting. Egg-yolk is 
naturally stringy and thick. It can be made liquid 
by shaking it rapidly with a much smaller bulk of 
water. The only recipe I know of for preparing yolk 
of egg is in the anonymous Bernensis, a fragment 
in Latin, belonging probably to the eleventh century, 
published with the German Theophilus, but very in- 
accurately translated. " The yolk of the egg separated 
from the albumen you put into the dish, having mixed 
water with it, for on account of its thickness the yolk 
needs water, that it may become clearer (or more 
fluid). With a whisk you will whip it like the clarea 
till it is all broken. Then, however, you will strain it 
through a cloth." The subject is MS. illumination. 
As panel-painting with yolk of egg is to be done just 
like fresco, barring the exceptions, we naturally look 
back to the chapters on fresco to see what we can 
learn. In c. 72 we find that Cennino recommends for 
the secco finishing of buon fresco one of two temperas. 
The first tempera, as he calls it, is the yolk and white 
of the egg together, mixed with the juice of young 
fig-shoots, but exception number two forbids us to 
use this tempera on panels. " The second tempera is 
the yolk of egg only; and you must know that it 
is of universal application, on walls, on panels, and 
on iron, and you can not use too much of it, but it 

Tempera- Pain ting 197 

would be wise to take a middle course." We may 
take this that it could be used more freely and safely 
on walls than the tempera of the whole egg, which 
was to be added moderately, "neither too much nor 
too little, to each of the vases (or small vessels con- 
taining pigment) as if you were mixing half wine with 
half water." That is, I imagine, there was about as 
much water with the pigment (perhaps more) as you 
subsequently added egg, and that if you used the yolk 
only you put about the same quantity of egg to the 
water, but with better assurance that it would not 
crack and peel off the wall. The colours for buon 
fresco were " mixed thoroughly with water " ; again 
" make them flowing and very liquid with water " ; 
"take a little verde-terra very liquid"; "then wash 
the whole over with the flesh-colours very liquid with 
water." " Temper them very liquid with clean water " 
(c. 67). For the secco colours Cennino says : " Pre- 
pare these in the same manner (with water I suppose) 
. . . and temper them all " (c. 72). In one of the tem- 
pera chapters (c. 147) he speaks of making a dark 
flesh-colour very liquid. Pigments mixed with quite 
undiluted egg are very thick, and not suited for the 
many layers which Cennino seems to have used. (I 
do not wish to be thought to say that so many layers 
must be used in tempera.) "And thus, as you have 
begun, go many times over with these colours, now 
one and now another, painting and uniting them skil- 
fully, and softening them tenderly." In the directions 
for painting on primed canvas for church processional 
banners (there is a roughly painted one at South 

198 Mediaeval Methods 

Kensington), we find the same painting in many 
layers. "You must colour on cloth in the method 
used for panels, that is, in stages (di passo in passd), 
and it is pleasanter than working on panels, because the 
cloth contains the moisture (il molle) a little ; and it is 
exactly like working in fresco, that is, on walls. Also 
I warn you that when you are colouring, the colours 
must be put on in many coats, even more than on 
panels, because cloth has no substance like panels, and 
the varnish will not show up bright if the paint is thin. 
Temper the colours similarly as for a panel " (c. 162). 
This is repeated in c. 165, seven to ten coats of 
colour being named. We are not without directions 
to mix water with the yolk in other writings. And, 
what is more natural, if you wash your brushes out 
in water, as you must, than to take what you want 
of the water to make your painting work well (" always 
washing the former colours from the brush," c. 145). 
The frequent direction to " squeeze " the charged brush 
in fresco-painting shows how liquid it must have been. 

Although Cennino four times speaks of yolk of egg 
as the universal tempera (cc. 72, 145, 147), he gives 
instances of the occasional use of other things. One is 
in chap. 83, where size and the yolk of egg are used, 
possibly mixed, to temper azzurro della magna for 
a mantle of the Virgin. This chapter is about wall- 
painting. There is an interesting tempering of pure 
ultramarine in c. 141 ; "a little glue, and a little yolk 
of egg, perhaps two drops." This may be done to 
make the size adhere to the egg underneath. 

In treating of the grinding of the colours, Cennino 

Tempera- Pain ting 199 

sometimes adds advice as to their temperas. He says 
saffron, also green made of orpiment and ultramarine, 
require size ; that green made of orpiment and indigo 
will bear nothing but size; that verdigris requires 
size on panels but yolk of egg on parchment and 
paper; 1 that azzurro della magna takes either yolk 
of egg or size; that indigo and white mixed to make 
pale blue take size ; that biacca will bear any tempera. 
I have not myself been successful in using size in the 
same picture with yolk of egg. If it can be done at 
all, the size would have to be very weak. It must 
have been used sometimes, from the following passage 
saying that the clear size made from the scrapings of 
parchment " is good for tempering dark blues, and if 
you should have laid a ground-tint of any colour not 
properly tempered, give it a coat of this size and it 
tempers the colours again and fixes them, and you 
may varnish them if you please" (103). 

I am not sure whether I have been right or wrong in 
taking another hint from the directions to check the 
absorbency of the wall before the secco work by a 
diluted wash of egg (cc. 72 and 90), but I generally 
do begin on primed panels or canvas by a very diluted 
wash of the yolk having a little yellow ochre in it, and 
let it dry for a day ; and I also dilute the first coat of 
colour and lay it on very thin. It is advantageous to 
let this beginning dry well before proceeding. On a 
gold ground, it is necessary to begin with this first 
thin coat of colour, and let it dry for at least several 

1 Verdigris is probably not permanent in anything but balsams such 
as Venice turpentine (see Laurie's Cantor Lectures). 

200 Mediaeval Methods 

days before proceeding, or the paint will probably crack 
off the gold. The sizing for banners where the paint- 
ing is to go, is a mixture of size and white of egg 
one white to four glassfuls of size. 1 

We next come to the system of painting employed 
in regard to chiaroscuro. No toning or shading was 
mixed with the colours. Whether the drapery was 
to be blue, red, or any other tint, it was painted with 
carefully prepared gradations (cc. 3-6) of pure colour, 
ultramarine, lake, or any other, mixed with white only. 
Of course purple, for instance, or any other mixed 
pigment would be first prepared and then graduated. 
These directions are repeated again and again see 
especially 71, 72, 145, 147. Were there then no 
shadows ? Most certainly, but they were made by 
an under-painting of a greenish colour, which was 
always allowed to show through the thin liquid colour- 
ing laid over it. And it is this under-painting, much 
more skilfully employed by the later tempera painters 
than by the earlier ones, which gives, I am certain, the 
extremely illuminated shadow tints and the truthful- 
ness of sculpturesque light and shade which underlie 
all their rainbow-like colour schemes, and I believe it 
accounts for the admirable way in which Florentine 
work especially ' comes out ' in photography, which 

1 It has been found that in planing away panels to transfer pictures 
(oil) to canvas the white gesso is not stained by the oil, which implies 
a coat of size (?) over it (see Eastlake's "Materials," vol. i. p. 251). 

Cennino seems to be aware of the hurtfulness of oil in direct contact 
with a gesso ground. " You must know that damp operates on a wall 
as oil does on a panel : as damp corrupts lime, so oil corrupts gesso 
and its temperas" (c. 175). 

Tempera- Pain ting 201 

seizes on the pale but correct monochrome on which 
the picture was built up. 

For fresco a shaded monochrome was first painted. 
The flesh-parts were outlined with sinopia, i.e. light 
red, also the hair, on the rough plaster, and then the 
thin lime surface-plaster was spread in small portions, 
only covering as much as could be painted in a day. 
This was made as smooth as possible by what we 
should call water-polish. The real drawing in strong 
outline was then painted on the smooth white lime, 
with ' verdaccio ' made of black, dark ochre, light red 
and white. Next the shadows were painted with 
terra-verde. Three tints of flesh-colours were care- 
fully placed over the rest of the flesh, made simply of 
light red and white. With the darkest tint " go to the 
edges of the shadows, but always taking care at the 
contours that the verde-terra should not lose its value, 
and in this manner keep on, softening one tint into 
another, until it is all covered, as well as the nature 
of the work will permit. But mind that if you would 
have your work appear very brilliant, be careful to 
keep each tint of colour in its place, except that with 
skill you soften one delicately into the other " (c. 67). 

Similarly, in painting drapery, a shaded under- 
painting is first to be made. " If you wish to colour 
any drapery, you will design it first carefully (gentil- 
mente) with your verdaccio, and do not let your draw- 
ing show too much, but moderately" (c. 71). For 
painting hair and beards we are told to " make them 
cut always first with verdaccio, and to pick them out 
with white, and to lay on a flat colour " (c. 69). For 

202 Mediaeval Methods 

the face of an old man the verdaccio must be darker 
(c. 68). For buildings we are told : " Put them in first 
with verdaccio or terra-verde, either in fresco or secco, 
but let the colour be very liquid." 

There is a variation in the method of flesh-painting 
mentioned, but it was not Agnolo's method, which 
Cennino preferred for its greater charm and freshness, 
and which has been already touched upon. In this 
other method, a flesh-tint was laid all over first, and 
then the shadows- were painted with terra-verde. 

In tempera-painting on panels, the two coats of terra- 
verde were first laid all over as an even bed or ground, 
the flesh-tints being laid as a light modelling on this. 
" Then, as you did in painting on walls, you must pre- 
pare thin gradations of flesh-colour, one lighter than 
the other, laying every tint in its right place in the 
face, taking care not to cover over the whole of the 
verdaccio, but shading partially on it with the darkest 
flesh-colour, making it liquid, and softening off the 
flesh in the tenderest manner. On a panel more coats 
of colour are required than on a wall, yet not so much 
but that the green tint under the flesh-colour should 
just be visible through it" (c. 147). There is no 
mention of the under-monochrome for drapery in these 
two or three chapters about colouring, but a carefully 
shaded drawing on the panel is described as part of 
the necessary preliminaries for f a picture. When the 
design of the picture has been carefully composed and 
corrected in charcoal, it is to be outlined with ink 
(lamp-black) and water. " With some more of the ink 
and a blunt-pointed minever brush shade some of the 

Tempera-Painting 203 

folds and some of the shadows of the face, and you 
will have made an agreeable design which will cause 
all men to fall in love with your works" (c. 122). 
In chapter 145, Cennino speaks of laying the colour 
on the dark and the light folds as if tinting over an 
existing light-and-shade drawing. And, as I have 
shown, the fresco methods were almost exactly adopted 
in tempera. In later painting there is nearly always 
more or less shading over the colour, generally a loose 
warm hatching, and this is often disguised again by 
very thin glazes and scumbles. And thus very beauti- 
ful depth and richness, and atmospheric effects, could 
be obtained which were unknown to the earlier men. 

The completeness of the shaded design made pos- 
sible the beautiful and enduring thin painting where 
every stage told in the final effect, and where con- 
sequently corrections or pentimenti were nearly an 
impossibility. " When you have finished drawing your 
figures (especially if the picture be of great value, and 
you expect to gain honour and glory from it), leave 
it for a day, return many times to examine it, and 
improve it where there is need. When it appears 
to you correctly drawn (and you can copy from or 
look at things done by other good masters, which is 
no shame to you if the figure is good), gently rub 
away the charcoal, &c." (then follow the directions for 
shading already quoted, c. 122). I have found, in 
copying, that the luminous half-shadow given by a 
greenish under-painting, skilfully used, can be ob- 
tained in no other way in tempera. Is it not also the 
secret of the luminous coolness of Correggio's painting? 

204 Mediaeval Methods 

Evidently Cennino knew, and it is one of the great 
beauties of the old tempera-painters, that every colour 
must be kept clear and distinct if brilliancy is to be 
obtained. As already quoted, every tint was to be 
laid in its right place on the proper part of the face. 
In the fresco directions we find: "Take good care, if 
you wish your work to look very fresh, that your 
brush should keep to its place in each stage of the 
flesh-painting except skilfully to unite one (colour) 
with another" (c. 67). "When you have laid each 
colour on two or three times, never departing from 
the scheme of the colours, never letting one colour 
encroach on or give way to another, except where 
they meet, then soften (sfumare) and unite them well 
together" (c. 71). 

At this early period there was very little hatching, 
except in the flesh or glazing, or scumbling or intricacy 
of any sort. The blending and softening (commcttere 
and sfumare) of the Trattato united the edges of the 
colours, laid at once, though not at one application, in 
their right places. The enamel-like beauty of surface 
of tempera, is produced by several semi-solid washes. 

The necessity of laying every tint in its right place 
may be taken as in part indicating the limitations of 
the vehicle. You cannot move the paint and blend 
it and work into it like oil-paint; it must be put 
on and left alone till it is dry.^ Pacheco (the master 
of Velasquez, wrote, 1641) says: "Tempera requires 
decision and to be able to design well with facility, 
because one cannot lay on and take off easily, for 
what is done erroneously cannot be mended." 

Temp era -Pain ting 205 

The ' knocked together ' effects of oil are very 
nearly approached by semi-transparent paintings of 
slightly varied tints put over each other wet. And 
in tempera this is safer than in oil, as there does not 
seem to be the tendency to become horny and too 
transparent. The filmy veils which the Florentines 
loved for their Madonnas are a use of this permissi- 
bility of very thin painting. 

These is nothing in tempera like oil- brush work. 
Tempera has more solidity and depth and brilliancy 
and juiciness than water-colour. It has great force, 
but not so much depth and illusory quality as oil. 

In the directions for drapery - painting, we see 
the caressing way in which they touched and re- 
touched and tenderly shaped the simple yet subtle 
folds in the faintly shadowed garments of the sacred 
personages. "And for your great pleasure begin to 
paint (with graduated lake) . . . and thus as you have 
begun go over and over again with the said colours, 
now with one and now with another, filling in with 
them, and uniting them together skilfully, softening 
them (sfumare) with delicacy. And now it is time to 
stop working, and to rest for a space, and to return to 
your labour on the panel : which must be worked at 
with great pleasure " (c. 145). In the fresco chapters 
there are similar directions for a drapery of graduated 
cinabrese, the brightest buon-fresco colour, and in 
secco for an ultramarine drapery, also in three grada- 
tions. All of us who love the 'early religious pictures 
can call before our mental vision the draperies, like 
the petals of flowers, which Ceninno would teach us 

206 Mediaeval Methods 

to paint skilfully, garments of unfleshly beings, em- 
bodiments of souls ; a drapery of blue, a drapery of 
vermilion, a drapery for an angel of changing green. It 
was the apotheosis of the hardly-won pigments, made 
with infinite care from proved and often secret recipes; 
made too with difficulty and few appliances; their 
brilliancy not to be lost or wasted by any dusky 
shading. But the full beauty of colour, either repre- 
sentative or abstract, the great intensity and flame- 
like glow that we find in the later tempera school, was 
not yet attained. 

Tempera-painting developed far beyond anything 
imagined at the date of this treatise, and was capable 
of endless refinements, adapting itself to the ideas to 
be expressed. 

Cennino felt himself unable to explain his painting 
fully. He says as much : " But by seeing others 
work you will understand better than by reading" 
(c. 71). " But seeing others work and practising with 
your hand will make you understand better than 
seeing it written" (c. 67). There is not now much 
opportunity of seeing others work, but there is still 
the resource of practising with the hand, and if this is 
undertaken on a definite plan some good result may 
be arrived at. The permanence of the early work did 
not only depend on the materials used, but on how 
they were used, and for terrvpera at any rate the 
materials are as good as they ever were. 

I have pointed out that Cennino, in his complete 
familiarity with his yolk-of-egg tempera, forgets to say 
whether it was used diluted, or mixed with anything 

Tempera- Pain ting 207 

else or not. He also omits to say whether it ought 
only to be used fresh, or might or ought to be used 
stale. It seems to be very commonly thought that 
really rotten eggs ought to be used, and one of the later 
MSS., the Marciana (first half sixteenth century), dubs 
yolk-of-egg tempera with the not very pleasant title 
of painting a putrido, no doubt a nickname, gained 
by unavoidable accidents. Great care was taken by 
miniaturists to prevent decomposition by putting red 
orpiment, camphor, and later, vinegar, in their white of 
egg. In this MS. the addition of water is mentioned. 
" The tempera of these colours prepared a putrido is 
water and the yolk of egg." For Pacheco egg-tempera 
meant the whole egg with fig-milk. His colours were 
to have the egg poured off them at the end of the day 
and clean water put on instead, "for egg generally 
goes bad and gets hard when it is left for some time." 

The preparation of the white of egg for painting 
may be of interest to some people. It was the usual 
vehicle for MS. painting. It is quaintly described in 
the anonymous Bernensis. 

" Know then that there are two sorts of clarea, one 
made by whipping and the other by breaking. That 
made by breaking is more fragile or weaker than that 
made by whipping, and is less clean than it, because 
being often broken (poured) or passed through wool 
or canvas, it takes dirt from the hand of the person 
pressing it through. . . . He who wishes to know this 
by experiment, let him use one and the other kind 
and let him see how limpid is the one and how turbid 
the other. . . . For colour and clarea must always be 

208 Mediaeval Methods 

treated in the most clean manner, as they can only be 
made beautiful if prepared delicately and diligently . . . 
if the clarea is not well beaten, how can the colour be 
well-tempered with it ? ... When now you will prepare 
the clarea you will separate the albumen from the yolk 
of egg, and having put the albumen in a dish, strongly 
and without cessation you will whip this white of egg 
with the above-named rod (a small iron loop with a 
straight handle) until it is as if changed into water 
or into likeness of snow, and adheres to the dish and 
loses the power of running or of turning aside at all, 
even if you turn the lower part to the top, so that the 
bottom of the dish is at the top, and the clarea below. 
But this should be known : if you strike this clarea, 
whipping it seven or ten times after it sticks to the 
dish ... it will be bettered. This same bad beating of 
the white misleads many, and it becomes when it is 
less whipped almost glue, and poured into the colour 
it makes their colour string like a thread, and that 
colour will be entirely ruined. . . . When the clarea 
is whipped, put the dish a little inclined in a quiet clean 
place, that the liquor of the clarea may run down from 
the froth. If it is the heat of the dog-days, put it in 
a cold place that it may not dry, but if it is the cold 
of winter, put it in a warm place that it may not freeze. 
The liquor of the clarea having run out, and the shell 
of the egg being cleaned, pour this liquor into this 
shell. Should it remain long in the dish it will be 
deteriorated, but most in summer. . . . But in the 
nature-given vase it remains in a natural condition." 
A mixture of clarea and gum was used for MSS. 

Tempera-Painting 209 

In the Strasburg MS. we find this way of making it : 
" Take the clear of three eggs in a clean dish, and beat 
it with a spoon till it becomes thin, and take a strong 
linen cloth and press the clear through five times till 
it no longer froths. Afterwards take J oz. (ein settif) 
of gum-arabic and lay it in the egg-clear and let it 
melt; after that take a full spoonful of vinegar and 
work it into the egg, and then put into the clear as 
much sal-ammoniac as one white of egg, and set this 
water aside till it is wanted." 

I have been experimenting myself in the attempt to 
see how far unaided tempera can be made to go in 
reproducing fine cinque-cento effects, but it is much 
to be wished that the under-painting of oil with 
tempera should be thoroughly tried; or, to put it 
rather differently, that the technique could be revived 
by competent painters of painting the solid dead- 
colouring of pictures with egg or size colours, glazing 
over this with transparent or semi-transparent pig- 
ments in varnish. Modern investigation and exami- 
nation prove more and more that this was how most 
pictures were painted of most schools in the early and 
palmy days of so-called oil-painting. I have seen 
several very successful trials of this method over a 
thin and also heavily impasted under-painting. 


YOLK of egg does not fulfil all the requirements of 
a tempera or vehicle for colours, for it does not per- 
fectly protect the pigments from the action of the 
atmosphere. It appears, however, not to injure them 
by discoloration or otherwise, and certain beauties 
can be given in this method which seem impossible 
with oil. The protection also, though not perfect, is 
not inconsiderable, and many oil- pictures that are 
painted nowadays will have rotted to their graves 
while the best fifteenth-century tempera pictures still 
keep the bloom of youth. Their rivals in durability, 
fifteenth-century Flemish and German ' varnish ' pic- 
tures, were probably many of them painted over a dead 
colouring of size or egg-colours, with a varnish tough, 
pale, brilliant, and protective beyond any known now. 
What little chemistry has to say about egg-vehicles 
is soon told. The following analysis is taken from 
Professor Church's " Chemistry of Paints and Painting." 
He told me verbally that he ^bought egg-tempera the 
most permanent kind of painting there is. 

Yolk. White. 

Water . . 51.5 84.8 
Albumen, &c. 
(mtellin) . 15.0 12.0 

Yolk. White. 

Fat or oil . . 30.0 0.5 
Mineral matter 1.4 1.2 
Other substances 2.1 1.5 

Egg-Vehicles 211 

The albumen in which the egg-oil is suspended 35 
an emulsion dries with it and in time they become in- 
soluble, as also the albumen alone, which will be found, 
on trying to wash a palette on which the colours have 
been left for some months, or a brush, if not rinsed 
immediately, which has been used for applying the 
white of egg and bole preparation for gilding on. 
White of egg alone dries too hard for painting with, 
and has very little body, and in time has more ten- 
dency to crack. The coagulation may be accelerated 
by exposure to sunshine, and probably by gentle 

Although neither vinegar nor fig-sap seem, generally 
speaking, to have been mixed with yolk of egg, I have 
found practically that a few drops of acetic acid, the 
pure principle of vinegar, make an advantageous addi- 
tion. I put about twelve or fifteen drops of three- 
per-cent. acid to one yolk, and gently and thoroughly 
shake them together without making bubbles. This 
is pleasanter to paint with, the egg keeps good for 
weeks, and it dries harder. Professor Church recom- 
mends that the " alkaline reaction (of egg-yolk) should 
be exactly neutralised by the cautious addition of a 
very few drops of white vinegar," or else "a saturated 
solution of eugenol (from oil of cloves) in five-per-cent. 
acetic acid is first made, and added drop by drop to 
the yolks, with constant agitation, tested by turmeric 
paper, which, reddened by the yolks, regains its 
yellow colour when there is enough acid. After this, 
any necessary water may be added and a lump of 

212 Mediaeval Methods 

In his " Pigments and Vehicles of the Old Masters," 
Dr. A. P. Laurie notices that the juice of the fig- 
tree (p. 25) was added to the whites of eggs, and 
that "the fig-tree belongs to the same family as the 
india-rubber tree, and its juice contains caoutchouc. 
We are thus brought to recognise the interesting fact 
that caoutchouc was used as a medium for painting 
long before its properties were known. Doubtless 
the mixture of caoutchouc and albumen would make 
a very tough and protective medium." Fig-milk has 
the solvent properties of vinegar in mixture with egg, 
as Pliny knew, which is the reason commonly given 
for using it. I have not tried it, but Ernst Berger 
of Munich, 1 who has experimented recently in various 
vehicles, says that the whole egg mixed with the 
milk exuding from the cut-up twigs is pleasant to 
paint with, keeps good, and when dry this tempera 
is more water-resisting than the egg alone. 

Egg that has gone bad does not dry well, and the 
sulphur which is liberated by decomposition is likely 
to be mischievous. Some aureolin painted with bad 
egg turned burnt-sienna colour. This change must 
undoubtedly have been caused by a red compound of 
sulphur having been formed with the cobalt base of 
the aureolin. It is safest to exclude lead and copper 
pigments from the tempera palette, which might be 
injured by the sulphuretted hydrogen and ammonium 
sulphide produced in the process of ' going bad.' 

Egg-oil is suggested by Vibert 2 as being probably 

1 Beitrdge, Part III. pp. 98 and 105. 
8 Science of Painting. 

Egg-Vehicles 213 

a superior vehicle to the natural egg-yolk. Egg-oil 
was very -well known in mediaeval times, and most 
of the possibilities of eggs, for they were given a 
sort of mystic exaltation by old alchemists on account 
of the life-germ they contain. It is made by boiling 
the yolks hard, and expressing the oil, which of course 
is not hardened by heat, but only the albumen. 1 It 
never seems to have been used for painting, and it 
is probable that the albumen adds to the drying pro- 
perties of the vehicle. 

Though egg-yolk may be an oil-medium of a kind, 
it is doubtful whether it can be associated with other 
oils, 2 and grease of every kind must be kept at arm's 
length. Because amber can be dissolved in egg-oil, 
we must not conclude that we can mix amber var- 
nish with yolk of egg. Powder colours ground in 
turpentine should be avoided. 

These remarks have nothing to do with the use of 
tempera as a substratum for oil or varnish painting, 
for which it is well suited. Oil lies on it very well 
there, though tempera peels from a ground containing 
oil, unless the oil-paint is prepared as by being rubbed 
with garlic; but the advisability of such treatment 
is open to question. Any one painting in tempera 
escapes the risk of badly prepared oil, of injury 
caused by abuse of turpentine or other diluents, of 

1 Liber Sacerdotum, tenth century. 

2 Berger considers that egg-yolk and drying oils can be used mixed, 
and oil thus compounded can be made to blend with water. Vasari 
says that Alesso Bajdovinetti mixed yolk of egg with liquid varnish to 
finish fresco, but that it peeled off, 

Mediaeval Methods 

adulteration and spoiling in the tubes. The sepa- 
rateness of the final varnish is another point worth 
consideration. The paints go a long way, so it is a cheap 
method. It is not generally known that aluminous 
earths are commonly ground with many of the pig- 
ments for oil-painting to make them ' set up/ and that 
the practice is not unknown of adding non-drying 
substances to prevent the paint hardening in the 
tubes. Size was sometimes used in the same picture 
as egg-tempera, but there seems no sufficient reason 
for doing so. It must have needed a very conscien- 
tious conscience to turn from the tractable egg to the 
tiresome size, which must be kept warm, and dries 
directly in the brush. Rules for using size are : the 
ground should have no grease in it ; the mixed colour 
should run or drop from the brush in a thread ; all 
coats except the last should be applied warm: but 
boiling spoils the tenacity of the size ; size must 
always be well made and fresh. Stale size does not 
dry properly. It was, however, sometimes used stale 
in gilding on parchment. 


THIS is the earliest complete description of true fresco 
as practised in the Renaissance period, that is, by 
laying on each day so much of the \final coat of lime 
intonaco as could be painted in that day. Quick- 
lime is calcium oxide, when slaked with water it 
becomes calcium hydrate. In this form it is made 
into mortar, and then slowly takes up carbonic acid 
gas from the ait, and becomes calcium carbonate, 
crystallising in the process. The incorporation of the 
colours with this crystallising process binds them to 
the wall. But the hard skin forms quickly, and it 
has never been thoroughly explained how such large 
surfaces as are found at Pompeii without joins could 
have been painted in fresco alone. 

The Romans used many coats of plaster Vitruvius 
says seven, Pliny five instead of the two we now 
think sufficient) and which seem generally to have 
been considered enough in the great period of fresco. 
These were all made with lime, but in the lower layers 
crushed bricks and tiles were used, in the upper one 
marble dust in graduated fineness. Then all the coats 
were beaten together and smoothed. To secure that 

plaster should be free from cracks, it is necessary that 


2i6 Mediaeval Methods 

the lime should be very thoroughly slaked and well 
worked, that is, kept in water for about two months, 
after which, if kept in jars from which the air is ex- 
cluded, it still improves. 

The fresco-painting for which there are directions 
in the Hermeneia, and which Didron actually saw done 
at Mount Athos, seems to have been painted in larger 
areas than Cennino contemplated, kept moist by a 
very thick plaster-bed. The wall was first to be 
thoroughly wetted. "If it is a brick wall, you must 
wet it five or six times, and you must put on a coat of 
lime two fingers or more thick, to retain the moisture 
fit for use. If it is a stone wall, wet it only once or 
twice, and lay on a much smaller quantity of lime, for 
stone takes and retains moisture better. In the winter, 
put on one coat in the evening and the superficial one 
the next morning. In the summer, do what is most 
convenient, and after having put on the last coat, level 
it till it becomes firm and then work." 

Here, if Didron reports correctly, the mortar is all 
lime, only mixed with straw for the under coat, and 
with tow for the upper. Didron saw the whole process, 
and says, what is rather incomprehensible, that three 
days were allowed to elapse after the plastering was 
finished before the painting was begun, to allow some 
of the moisture to dry out. " If the painting were 
done sooner, the lime would injure the colours; and 
after a longer delay the painting would not be solid, 
would not unite with the mortar, which would be too 
hard, too dry to absorb the colours." The painting 
which he saw done took about ten days to do, Didron 

Fresco and Tempera 217 

mentions no binding material for the azures, &c., which 
were only painted when the wall had dried thoroughly. 
In the Hermeneia we find bran-water used for blue, no 
other vehicle is mentioned in connection with fresco. 
Pliny speaks of saffron being applied to the walls of 
a temple at Elis with milk. Milk, especially that of 
goats, was preferred to egg for retouching by the 
later painters, notably by the Spanish school, but in 
theory retouching with anything was looked on as 
mischievous, dulling the brightness in time; but in 
the Trattato the finishing in secco is treated as indis- 
pensable, or at least as inevitable. Unless Theophilus 
describes incorrectly what he only half understood, 
fresco was then either degenerate or half developed, 
for his process is only painting with colours mixed 
with lime on wetted plaster. The Mount Athos fresco 
would then be a further stage, and Cennino's a still 
further but not final one. But the technique was 
hardly perfect before the art declined. 

A very small attempt in fresco made me wish I 
could substitute it for tempera. But sulphuretted 
hydrogen is a remorseless enemy to any revival of 
true fresco. 

Both in past and present times there have been 
writers who have judged fresco and tempera as being 
essentially one thing. Perhaps tempera may be said 
to occupy a half-way position between fresco, the only 
painting Michael Angelo thought worthy of men, and 
oil-painting, which, according to him, is an art fit 
only for women and for idle and incapable men. He 
did not disdain tempera himself, as may be seen in 

218 Mediaeval Methods 

our National Gallery. Armenino of Ravenna (1586, 
ii. p. 105) twice speaks of tempera-painting on panels 
and cloths as painting in secco, and when he speaks 
of the vehicle to be used for retouching fresco with 
dark transparent tints he says the best for this, and 
therefore the best for retouching secco on panels 
and cloth, is tempera, i.e. yolk of egg. 

Breadth, transparency and purity of colour, and 
decision of painting are the qualities on account of 
which tempera might plead to be no longer a lost 
and forgotten art, sheltering itself under a corner of 
the mantle of great Fresco without arrogance. 

This breadth and transparency are owing to the 
gradual bringing forward of the picture from a simple 
outline of extreme beauty, as will be seen by any 
one who should take the trouble to make a completed 
outline of any fine early picture; and this outline 
is never lost; its beautifully opposed and harmonis- 
ing lines and masses are retained to the end, even 
strengthened and accentuated, giving great distinct- 
ness at a distance even when not actually visible. A 
perfectly modulated monochrome of light and shade 
fills _the outline, apparent through the overlaid glory 

colour, over which again is thrown a veil of atmos- 
phere, a refulgence of light, a suggestion of palpitating 
space. The colour design might be repeated in glass, 
being so decorative and balanced, but photography 
reveals the truth of the lighting and relief which it is 
based upon. 

These final stages of tempera are difficult, but not 
more difficult than producing the texture of subtly 

Fresco and Tempera 219 

finished oil-painting, such as Titian's. Fresco has by 
nature a softer, more mellow surface. The hatching, 
with which so much fault is found in tempera, belongs 
principally to the finishing stages, and it is difficult 
to dispense with it altogether, as a brilliancy can be 
given by this method of intermingling touches of pure 
colour, which is different from mixed tints and often 
very valuable. The beauties of tempera are not 
those of preciseness of values and gradations, nor of 
dexterous brush-work. The charm is more in its 
simplicity and unconsciousness and carelessness of 
effect, with complete absorption in the subject, which 
the picture is the means of realising to the spectator. 
Hatching is often the quickest and best way of pro- 
ducing luminous and well-graduated shadow. Large- 
size photographs of the ceiling frescos of the Sistine 
show that the figures are modelled with loose, easy 
line-work, quite startling in the power and knowledge 
of form it reveals. The cool gleam of the flesh- 
colouring of this ceiling is very wonderful. Hatching 
and stippling are not at all uncommon in oil-painting. 
Armenino, after describing at length the difficulties of 
naked flesh in fresco and admiring the rapid handling 
of some painters, says: "But the muscles of naked 
figures, as being of greater difficulty, are painted by 
hatching them in different directions with very liquid 
shade tints, so that they appear of a texture like 
granite ; and there are very brilliant examples of this 
painted by the hand of Michael Angelo, of Daniello, 
and of Francesco Salviati, who are very celebrated for 
their works," 


OIL is mentioned for purposes connected with the 
arts as far back as the Augustan age. Ludius, an 
encaustic painter living then, mixed in some oil at 
the burning in of the wax-colours. Vitruvius (same 
period), to prevent vermilion darkening in out-of-door 
work, directs that the wall when coloured and dry 
should be coated with Punic wax melted on the fire 
and tempered with a little oil, laid on with a brush, 
and driven in by the heat of a portable stove. Corne- 
lius Celsus (Tiberius) mentions red lead as a drier for 
oil, but for medicinal, not artistic purposes. Pliny de- 
scribes the method of protecting vermilion in nearly 
the same terms as Vitruvius, probably borrowed from 
him. He mentions a number of oils, among them 
linseed-oil and nut-oil, but he does not speak of them 
as useful to painters, as in the case of gum and size. 
He also says that every resin can be dissolved in oil. 
Wax at that time, as a protection to walls and statues, 
and forming also a paint with a great deal of body in 
it, had functions both decorative and pictorial similar 
to those of our oils and varnishes. 

Lucanus (Nero) recommends painting with natural 
balsam as the best way of uniting the power and har- 
mony of the oil with that of the colours. Dioscorides 

Early Oil-Painting 221 

(temp. Anthony and Cleopatra, or rather later) was 
acquainted with many kinds of oil, and describes a 
method of bleaching it in an earthen vessel in the 
sun, beating it till it froths, when it is to be mixed 
with resins, and if necessary put again in the sun. 1 
Galen (131-230 A.D.) knew methods of rendering nut, 
hemp, and linseed oils drying (vii. 12). Litharge was 
known in the first century A.D., and in the fourth it 
is mentioned in conjunction with oil by the medical 
writer Marcellus. In the fifth century we find oil 
thickened in the sun was used to protect gilding. 
In 540 Aetius, a physician from Amida in Mesopotamia, 
wrote of drying-oils which were also prized in the 
arts, Ricinus-oil and linseed-oil ; also nut-oil, obtained 
like almond-oil, useful to "gilders and encaustic 
painters, for it dries and preserves gildings and en- 
caustic paintings for a long time." 

In the Lucca MS., founded on the classical tradition 
but compiled in Italy towards the end of the eighth 
century, we find various more or less elaborate com- 
positions of linseed-oil with resins for protecting paint- 
ing and gilding, and for imitating gold by colouring tin 
yellow by means of a staining colour added to the 

It seems probable that the discovery was gradually 
made that the oil, which was at first mixed with wax, 
could be mixed with pigments without the intervention 
of wax, but the first definite account of this is in the 
Schedula of Theophilus, who must have lived at the 
end of the eleventh or the beginning of the twelfth 

1 Dios., I. 32. 

222 Mediaeval Methods 

century, and was almost certainly a German. He 
seems to have known of no method of purifying the oil 
he used, which was linseed (he was also acquainted 
with olive, walnut, and poppy oil), or of making it 
drying, and it therefore seemed to him a very tedious 
(though a possible) method for " tints for faces and for 
draperies . . . beasts, or birds, or leaves in their 
various colours," especially for figures, because each 
time a colour was laid on the work must be dried in 
the sun, before another could be superposed " (chaps. 
xx., xxvii., xxviii.). Oil is frequently mentioned in 
two documents which seem to be in part derived from 
the same sources as the Schedula, namely, the book 
of St. Andemar, and the third book of Eraclius : these 
two seemingly written in France, twelfth or thirteenth 
century. The practice indicated seems to correspond 
with the records of the work carried on by our kings 
at Westminster and elsewhere, and in our cathedrals, 
from the middle of the thirteenth century till about the 
close of the fifteenth, not much of importance being 
done till after Henry the Third's marriage with Eleanor 
of Provence in 1236, which may very likely have in- 
augurated an artistic period in England founded on 
the French schools. 1 

Eraclius (III. xxix.) gives directions for preparing 
oil for tempering colours by adding a moderate 
quantity of lime, heating and ^skimming it. White 
lead being then put in as a drier, the oil should be 
placed in the sun for a month or more, and frequently 
stirred. This is the only old MS. where white lead 

1 See Monumenta Vetusta V. of the Society of Antiquaries, and 
J. T. Smith's "Westminster Antiquities." 

Early Oil-Painting 223 

grounds are mentioned, being here directed for both 
wood and stone (xxiv., xxv.). 

Oil is frequently mentioned as a vehicle for colours, 
especially by St. Andemar. There is no evidence, how- 
ever, that this oil-paint was for pictures. If anything, 
in these two MSS. the evidence is rather that it was 
for decorative purposes. But this is a subtle modern 
distinction often leading to erroneous conclusions. 
The Sloane MS. (1754 B.M.), another French MS. 
in handwriting of the end of the thirteenth century, 
frequently mentions oil as a tempera in a similar way 
to the two preceding. 

The very early ' Byzantine ' paintings in the 
Cologne Gallery are coarse in execution and appear 
to be oil-paint. In England, the Painted Chamber 
mural pictures, begun about 1250, must have been in 
tempera or fresco, judging from what is said of them 
then by those who examined them after their discovery 
in 1819 and before their destruction in the burning of 
the old Houses of Parliament in 1834. The dignified 
figure of St. Faith in Westminster Abbey, however, 
does not appear to be tempera, nor the decorative 
borders. The paintings in the Chapter-House under 
the sedilia opposite the door are no doubt oil-painting. 
The really fine remains saved from the destruction of 
St. Stephen's Chapel, painted in the middle of the 
fourteenth century (in the mediaeval room, British 
Museum) are an unsolved riddle. Great quantities of 
varnish and oil were used in painting the chapel, an 
oil-and-lead ground was used, and the analysis of 
some of the pigments seems to have showed admixture 

224 Mediaeval Methods 

of resins; also there is a solidity in the handling, which 
is most like oil-painting. But the colours have the 
fresh bloom and whiteness of tempera, and this too 
shut up in a dark case in the Museum, where oil and 
white lead should discolour. A noticeable point, too, 
is that the very slight cracking of the blue parts is 
different from the rest, which is deeply cracked, and 
ultramarine blue was often painted with tempera to 
quite a late period where the rest of the picture was 
oil. The portrait of King Richard II. painted about 
I 394> which is within the altar-rails in Westminster 
Abbey, was considered by Richmond, who superin- 
tended its cleaning, to be tempera, but it has the 
extremely raised darks which are usually distinctive 
of oil-painting. Very likely both methods are used in 
it. In the South Kensington Museum, on the stair- 
case leading to the water-colour collection, there is an 
early crucifix with a painted Christ from an English 
church showing the darkening of oil-paint, but there 
is nothing to fix the date with certainty. 

An exhibition of as many movable pictures of early 
date as could be brought together was held in the 
rooms of the Society of Antiquaries in June 1896. 
There were several of apparently late fourteenth- 
century work, in oils. A panel from the Cathedral of 
Norwich in five divisions (14), and two from the church 
of St. Michael at Plea, Norwich (,15), were respectively 
tempera and oil, but in other points resembled each 
other closely. The date of both is fixed by the 
cap-like helmets of the soldiers, which were not in 
use after the end of the fourteenth century. Some 

Early Oil-Painting 225 

boldness is necessary to say that a picture painted 
before 1400 is in oil or oil-varnish, anticipating Van 
Eyck's discovery, but the panels from St. Michael's at 
Plea are certainly one or the other. Otherwise they 
seem painted with the same palette, and the type and 
treatment of the faces is very similar, especially the 
hair, beards, and mouths. 

When such a picture, really in wonderful preserva- 
tion after 500 years of careless treatment, is spoken 
of as * in oils/ oil- varnish would probably be the more 
correct expression ; and in the Strasburg MS., written 
at the beginning of the fifteenth a itury, deriving some 
of its material from a master of Lubeck, a Hanse town, 
and some from a master of Kolmar, we find the first 
known directions for mixing varnish with the colours, 
a few drops being added to each. The writer does not 
speak of this as any innovation, though he says that 
his method of preparing oil is not known to all painters. 
His varnishes also seem to be neither secrets nor 
novelties. The oil, either nut, linseed, or hemp-seed, 
is boiled up with pumice-stone .and calcined bone, and 
skimmed. Then one ounce of white copperas is added 
to a quart of oil, which is put four days in the sun, 
and should then be quick-drying, and clear and bright 
as crystal. No similar chemical preparation of the oil 
was known in Italy till much later. The Strasburg 
MS. was most likely written in about the middle of 
the lives of Van Eyck and Cennino, who were contem- 
poraries. Van Eyck's secret must be sought in the 
preparation and materials of his varnish, and the 
method by which he conquered the viscousness of 
varnish so as to be able to paint in such small touches 


226 Mediaeval Methods 

of such extreme sharpness without impairing its bril- 
liancy and durability. This quality of great limpidity 
is, however, observable in the Norwich picture men- 
tioned above. It is remarkable that the directions for 
flesh-colouring in the Strasburg MS. are extremely 
barbarous, as if dating from a much earlier period, but 
they are associated with the drying oil and the direc- 
tions for the inmixture of varnish with the colours, and 
oil is distinctly mentioned as the vehicle in this crude 

In various places records have been discovered of 
the use of oil in the accounts of decorations of build- 
ings in the fourteenth century. In England, at Ely 
in the fourteenth century, at Canterbury in the 
thirteenth, at Westminster in the thirteenth and four- 
teenth, large quantities of oil were used. In 1356 the 
Duke of Normandy ordered the decoration of his 
castle with sacred and profane histories, "et toutes 
ces choses dessus devisees seront ftes de fine cou- 
leurs a huile." In 1314 there was oil-painting in 
Chambery by Giorgio d'Aquila; in 1341 "pointure 
de bonnes couleurs a ole" was used for a tomb in 
Tournay; in 1351-1352 there are records in the 
archives of Bruges of painting in oil done in the 
chapel of the town-hall at Damme. 1 These notices 
could be extended. Before flesh and faces were 
attempted in oil it was sometimes used for draperies, 
exactly as we find in the Trattato (cc. 143, 144), where 
fy allusion is made to German practice (c. 89). There 
are, however, scarcely any reliable notices of oil having 
been used at this early time in Italy. Crowe and 
1 Ilg's Excurs iiber die del malerei. 

Early Oil-Painting 227 

Cavalcaselle ("Early Flemish Painters ") speak of panels 
by Broederlain in the museum at Dijon, and of some 
other panels in the church of St. Sauveur at Bruges, 
where the flesh parts are- tempera and pale, and the 
draperies are in oil and richer in colour. This practice 
is part of the general notion that each pigment had to 
be humoured with its own tempera. Later, we find size 
used for azures when the rest of the picture was in oil. 

How little was known in Italy of the northern 
methods, and how well and long the ' secret ' was kept 
may be seen from the following quotation from Filarete, 
writing about 1465, evidently with no more knowledge 
of the technique and the preparation of the material 
than Cennino had. After speaking of fresco and 
tempera, which he considers similar, he tells the little 
he knows about oil. " But this last is another practice 
and another manner, which is beautiful if you know 
how to do it. In Germany there is good work done in 
this way, especially by that master Giovanni of Bruggia, 
and master Ruggieri, who have used excellently these 
colours in oil. Well, tell me how is painting done with 
this oil, and what oil is it? The oil is linseed oil. 
Is not that very dark-coloured ? Yes, but that is taken 
from it ; I do not know in what way, unless it is this : 
put it in a vessel and let it stay there a good time, 
and it dears itself. It is true that he says, that there 
is a way of doing it quicker." l 

Oil is now thoroughly washed by repeatedly beating 
it up with water, as a preliminary to everything else. 
This separates mucilage and other impurities, and by 
this process alone the oil becomes very siccative. 
1 See Filarete, in Quellenschriftcn. 


So much might be said about grounds and panels, that 
what I have space to say can only be a few fragments. 
For panels many different woods have been used. 
Pliny mentions larix wood or pitchpine (L. 16, c. 73). 
The Hawara portraits (N.G., second to third century, 
Graeco-Roman) are said by their discoverer, Professor 
Flinders Petrie, to be sometimes on pine-wood, but 
generally on cedar. According to Cennino, panels 
should be made of poplar (the wood generally used in 
Italy), lime, or willow. In the Life of Giovanni Bellini, 
Vasari speaks of the Venetian custom of painting on 
canvas as opposed to the usual maple or poplar panel. 
If they used wood, it was that from German firs. 
Raphael is said to have generally painted on chest- 
nut panels, which closely resembles oak. They are 
usually extremely thick, the Transfiguration being, 
for instance, on five planks three to four inches 
thick. Flemish, Dutch, and early English pictures 
are generally on oak. Van Eyck's Arnolfini (N.G.) 
is on oak, protected at the back by a composition 
of black paint and tow. Nothing better can be de- 
sired than old seasoned mahogany which has been 
used for table-tops and counters, from being obtain- 
able in such large pieces, and being freer from resin 


Grounds and Size 229 

and less likely to crack than most wood. The less 
a piece of seasoned wood is re-worked the better, 
as this often starts afresh the tendency to warp or 
contract. Cennino's plan of boiling the panel is 
analogous to the modern process of soaking in hot 
water and steaming. 1 Larger panels should be stif- 
fened at the back by gluing on battens of similar 
wood with their fibres in the direction of the fibres 
of the panels. These battens have, on the side next 
the panel, square-shaped notches at regular intervals, 
forming rows across it. A cross batten is passed 
through each row of holes formed by the notches. 
These cross battens are kept steady by an unnotched 
batten being glued across their ends. Sufficient play 
is allowed in this way for contraction, and expan- 
sion and warping is counteracted withbut the risk of 

The Egyptians sometimes dispensed with a wood 
foundation altogether. A cover for a coffin is de- 
scribed by Berger, 2 consisting entirely of about twenty 
layers of sized linen, the upper layer having gypsum 
spread over it, and over this again another layer of 
plastered linen, with figures and ornaments cut out in 
it, so that a very low relief is obtained. An ingenious 
way of binding the ground to the wood in another 
sarcophagus is noticed by Dr. A. P. Laurie, 8 the wood 
having been rubbed and torn up with sand mixed 

* " Chemistry of Paints and Painting," Church, pp. 23-25. 
a Beitrage, Pt. II. p. 8. 

8 Cantor Lectures, published by the Society for the Encourage 
ment of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce. John Street, Adelphi. 

230 Mediaeval Methods 

with gum-water. On this curious layer of concrete 
the fine white gesso had been laid. 

Linen and leather or parchment have both some- 
times been used over wood from a very early period, 
to guard against mischief from shrinkage. A remark- 
able instance of the use of both is given by the German 
chemist John. 1 "The magnificent sarcophagi in the 
Minutoli collection, for example, are first covered with 
linen by means of glue. On this follows a thin 
coating of ground chalk, with size, which is again 
covered with a painting of size in which is a woven 
mesh of parchment threads, and lastly with a second 
priming of lime" (he corrects this to chalk). On 
this the hieroglyphics were painted with size. A late 
Roman writer Boethius (470-526), in his De Arith- 
metica, Preface- 1 - comparing the arts, says : " Panels to 
be painted afford a complex material; entrusted to 
the care of carpenters ; the waxes collected by the 
care of country-folk; the pigments for the colours 
sought out by the skill of merchants; the linen 
wrought by weavers." Pliny speaks of canvas for 
large coarse paintings, as for the portrait of Nero, 
1 26 feet high, but not of covering panels with it 

Theophilus covered his panels with the untanned 
skins of the horse or ass, glued on with cheese glue, 
and primed very thinly with burnt gypsum or chalk 
and size made from skins (L. i.*|8, 19). Mrs. Merri- 
field in her preface mentions a ' Greek ' Crucifixion in 
the Campo Santo at Pisa on parchment stretched on a 
plank. According to Eastlake this was common : " the 

1 Reisc turn Tempel des Jupiter Ammon (Minutoli). 

Grounds and Size 231 

darkly varnished Byzantine pictures are frequently 
painted on leather glued to the wood " (p. 59). The 
only instance I have seen of skin used between the 
panel and the priming is in the Retable of the south 
ambulatory of Westminster choir, strips of parchment 
having been laid over the joins of the wood; but the 
practice does not commend itself, judging from this 
example. When I saw it these strips were separating 
from the wood and curling up, tearing the plaster 
priming to bits, and evidently the principal cause of 
the ruinous condition of the painting. It is now being 
relaid on the ground. 

The early pictures in the Academia at Siena showing 
Byzantine influence are all underlaid with linen, which 
also passes over the mouldings forming the frames, 
but there is nothing to show they are better preserved 
on this account rather the reverse. Rossini (vol. i. p. 
122) says that Giunta's pictures were executed on linen 
cloth stretched on a panel (glued to the panel would pro- 
bably be more correct). I have been told by Professor 
Church that he had had occasion to examine a great 
many old panels, and that he had always found linen 
between the wood and the plaster ground, usually at 
right angles to the fibres of the wood as if to bind 
them together, but in one case diagonally. There are 
some slight diagonal ridges in our Van Eyck's Arnol- 
fini (N.G.), from the top left-hand corner through the 
man's purple cloak and background near it which, I 
think, may be the edges of strips of linen. 

Either for gilding or for painting grounds, plaster 
of Paris was widely in use. Professor Church said 

232 Mediaeval Methods 

he had always found some in every ground he had 
analysed. Theophrastus describes the process of 
making it, its rapid setting when wetted, and its dura- 
bility as a stucco, often outlasting the walls it was laid 
on. According to Pliny other softer white earths, chalks, 
and pipeclays were generally used as grounds to paint 
on. His gilding ground, leucophoron, is described 
above (p. xxi). Plaster of Paris has not, I believe, been 
found at Pompeii, but the three ' Greek ' manuals, the 
Schedule Hermeneia, and Trattato all direct the use of 
burnt gypsum, either slaked or raw, for gilding grounds 
and pictures. In the Lucca MS. they are burnt gyp- 
sum and bull glue. Theophilus gives chalk as an 
alternative. Chalk may have been most used in 
northern countries. Alcherius (French) speaks of it, 1 
and the Liber Illuministarius (German). 2 

In the Bologna MS., early fifteenth-century Italian, 
the priming directions are nearly the same as Cen- 
nino's : three or four coats of hot size, which must 
dry tolerably, the last thoroughly ; then plaster of Paris 
mixed with warm water laid on as a paste, and scraped 
fairly smooth when dry ; then ten coats of slaked plas- 
ter, with weakish size laid on with a brush. I confess 
I do not understand the gesso grosso without size ; it 
would be very friable ; nor the advisability of the two 
sorts of gesso; nor how a panel could bear so thick 
a wet coating without warping irremediably. It is 
usually considered necessary tha! each layer of gesso 
should be applied while the previous one is damp, 

1 " Ancient Practice of Painting," vol. L 
Beitrdge, Pt. III. p. 179. 

Grounds and Size 233 

or else be rendered non-absorbent, for it is found 
that gesso does not adhere well to a dry, absorbent 
ground, yet here and in the Trattato the gesso grosso 
is allowed to dry before the gesso sottile is applied. 

Plaster of Paris, which is burnt gypsum, and 
whitening, which is powdered chalk, are the two 
materials now and formerly almost exclusively used 
for grounds. The Italian name for burnt or baked 
gypsum is gesso grosso; when it is slaked it is gesso 
sottile. Slaking is wetting the gesso grosso with 
so much water that it is unable to set. It recrystal- 
lises into needle-shaped filaments, which in a way 
felting together, help to give it the pliancy and tough- 
ness which it possesses in a marked degree, and which 
gesso grosso and whitening are quite deficient in, they 
being composed of amorphous particles like sand, in no 
way cohesive. It seems to me a mistake to grind 
gesso sottile, as nothing should be done to disturb its 
crystalline conformation. Gesso grosso is not coarse, 
as its name seems to imply. The best is sifted through 
silk sieves, and feels like satin between the fingers. 1 

The Hermeneia gives the preparation of gypsum, 
which there is twice burnt and twice slaked, and 
only the slaked is used ; but, as a rule, it must have 
been bought ready-burnt. 

Almost invariably size was mixed with the gesso 
grosso, with the gesso sottile always. For the first 
the size should only set into a very weak jelly. For 
the second it should be a little stronger. In Pliny's 

1 For information as to the composition, preparation, and qualities 
of plaster of Paris see Millar's " Plastering." 

234 Mediaeval Methods 

time it was bull glue, also in the Lucca MS. and the 
Hermeneia ; and St. Andemar describes a glue from 
oxhide as a mordant for powdered tin. Theophilus 
used horse and ass skins, the skins of eels, and the 
bones of the head of the wolf-fish, and a bladder and 
cuttings of thick vellum are to be used to make glues 
for ' a picture of gold/ The bladder was probably that 
of the sturgeon. But the size most frequently recom- 
mended for all purposes is that made by boiling down 
parchment cuttings, and this is the size used by 
modern gilders. Sometimes skins or white leather 
were used. Alcherius says cuttings of white leather 
make the glue stronger. In a late document, size 
from pig skins is said to be more pliant. 

Except in English, there are not distinct words 
for size and glue, and the word glue is constantly 
used in translating, where size would be more correct. 
The things are distinct. Size is gelatine principally 
obtained by careful boifing from skins or bones (fish 
or animal). Too long boiling or too high a temperature 
partly changes it to a non-gelatinising substance. Glue 
is chondrine, obtained from cartilage, and is a less 
tenacious substance than size. 

The best size for painjers is made by boiling parch- 
ment shavings with enough water to cover them, for 
about one and a half to two hours, as long as the 
water looks clear. When copl it should be a stiff 
jelly. A thin layer dried on a plate in the wind be- 
comes pliant like horn and almost impossible to break. 
Gilders boil the parchment at simmering heat for a 
much longer time, and make 8 Ibs. of size from I Ib. of 

Grounds and Size 235 

parchment. After it is once made it must not be boiled 
again, and the fresher it is used the better. Both 
Cennino and the author of the Hermeneia evidently 
used it freshly made, even before it had once cooled. 
Decomposing size is useless, except that it seems to 
have been occasionally used as a mordant for gold. 

I should like to explain priming with gesso in 
detail, but have not space. Gradually throw the 
gesso grosso into a basin of warm size standing in a 
warm-water bath, and stir it smooth with a spoon 
metal or wooden till it is a perfectly smooth thickish 
cream. Apply it on the sized panel with a worn 
varnishing brush of bristles ; at first very thinly, well 
worked in ; when this coat is set but still moist, rather 
more freely, each coat in a contrary direction; three 
or four coats are enough all one mixing. The back 
should be primed too, to prevent warping. When 
dry enough, the panel may finish drying under 
pressure. The smooth face is now generally given 
by rubbing with a flat pumice-stone and water, finally 
polishing with fine glass-paper and linen rags. 

Gesso sottile needs stronger size, as has been said 
above. Soak the cakes of gesso in water, then mash 
them up in the size. Work the mixture through 
strong muslin. It is a thinner and more transparent 
cream than the other, but becomes opaque in drying. 
It is an admirable ground for gilding on ; better than 
the gilder's whiting in common use, and is the only 
gesso which can be used on canvas in sufficient 
quantity to make a smooth surface, two very thin coats 
being enough, only polished with glass-paper. 

236 Mediaeval Methods 

Professor Church recommends that the size for 
priming should be made of half parchment glue and 
fish glue, but the latter has not borne a very 
good character. Vandyck tried it, according to De 
Mayerne in a note dated London, May 28, 1633 : 
"The ground or priming for pictures is of great 
consequence. Sir Antonio Vandyck has made the 
experiment of priming with isinglass (fish size) but he 
told me that what is painted upon it cracks, and that 
this glue causes the colours to fade, in a very few 
days. Thus it is good for nothing." Valentine Boltz 
says that fish glue is not so strong as other glue. 
In the Hermenda^ oil is introduced into gilding 
grounds, and honey into the gesso grounds for 
tempera on canvas. Both these are exceptions to 
the general rule. Honey and sugar are constantly 
ingredients in the gesso used under gold in MS. 
but not otherwise. < 

Alcherius gives a Flemish recipe for a priming for 
gold on linen, which may be folded. He relies simply 
on the flexible quality of good size, preferable for this 
to egg, but adds nothing else. 

Gesso grounds for oil-painting continued in use 
for a long time, the dead colouring being frequently 
painted in tempera or distemper, but there are not 
many tempera pictures on canvas, that is, painted 
throughout in tempera. The Nativity, by Botticelli, 
shows the grain of a fine twilled linen all over the 
surface, especially in the gold background to the 
angels in the upper part, and is marvellously fresh, 
but it may be gilded all over, which would greatly 

Grounds and Size 237 

assist to preserve the painting. The Entombment, 
by Rogier Van der Weyden (664, N.G.), painted on 
sized linen canvas with some vehicle other than oil, 
is equally well preserved, and one is inclined to draw 
the conclusion that a foundation of good linen thread 
is as safe and durable a ground for tempera as can be 
found ; but two early pictures in the Cologne Gallery 
on canvas induce the contrary opinion (68 and 69), for 
they are much darkened and dulled in comparison 
with other pictures of the same date and school, 
(compare especially 43). The absence of the pro- 
tection afforded by the panel at the back seems 
likely to be the cause of the deterioration. The 
priming of the linen cloth or canvas for processional 
banners (Trattato, 162) should be noted, made of 
gesso sottile, a little starch, a little sugar, and size 
a coat of size not too strong being first passed over 
the whole. 1 

Everything to be primed must be sized first. Two 
coats of weak size are best. 

The following is the method of the Hermeneia : " How 
to work on canvas with egg, so as not to have cracks. 
Nail together, first, four pieces of wood, and stretch the 
canvas on this frame. You will then carefully mix 
size, soap, honey, and gypsum with warm water, and 
you will wet the canvas with these two or three times, 
till it is quite uniform. When the canvas is very 
dry you will polish it well with the tooth and then 
you can work with egg. You will attach the gold 

1 There is one of these processional banners in the Italian Court, 
South Kensington Museum. 

238 Mediaeval Methods 

to the nimbus with a mordant ; and if you wish you 
will put on a thin coat of varnish, which answers 
very well." 

No doubt the brilliancy and freshness of the earlier 
school of oil-painting is partly due to the continued 
use of gesso and size grounds, and the absence of oil 
and lead. Among others, Giovanni, Bellini, Giorgione, 
Titian, Bonifazio, the Bassanos, Correggio, and Vero- 
nese are said to have used them, and many of the 
Flemings ; but another method was to paint the dead 
colouring with egg or size straight on to the sized linen 
like the picture by Van der Weyden instanced above. 

Armenini 1 gives directions for preparing canvas 
for tempera-painting, which he, however, speaks of 
slightingly as only used by good masters for those 
things where haste is required. "Therefore we will 
treat of it briefly, and first we will begin with the 
canvases, on which, after they have been well stretched 
on the frames, two or three coats of weak size are to 
be laid; one being on the back side, in order that 
the canvas may be well soaked, and if the canvas 
is too stiff another liquid coat, with a little fine flour 
in it, will fill up the cracks and give an equal surface. 
There are others who are accustomed to mix with the 
size some well-ground slaked gesso, which they lay 
on thinly with a stick ; but if, to carry them from one 
place to another, the canvases must be folded after 
they are painted, they might suffer much from this 
scaling off." 

1 Armenini, 1586, Book II. p. 105. 


IN Venice before the fifteenth century the painters 
did not make their own gold backgrounds. This 
restriction gave rise to litigation; and in a con- 
temporary record a judgment is given from which 
the following sentence is taken : " We judge it 
just to permit the gilder to use colour, and the 
painter to use gilding, when one or the other plays 
a subordinate place in the finished work." 1 

Vasari observed the following inscription under a 
picture: "Simone Cini, a Florentine, wrought the 
carved work, Gabriello Saracini executed the gilding, 
and Spinello di Lucca of Arezzo painted the picture 
in the year 1385." 

But now if any one should wish to make a gold 
drapery or background, or to gild a frame to be really 
like the old work in quality, it is no use to go to 
the trade ; not that their gilding is not skilful, for it 
is, but because some unfortunate modern customs of 
the spick-and-span class prevent their gilding from 
having that metallic quality which we rightly admire. 
This does not depend on the quality of the gold-leaf 
or on its thickness, but depends on the nature and 
preparation of the ground, and on the way the gold 

1 Lectures on the National Gallery (J. T. Richter). 

240 Mediaeval Methods 

is applied. The mischief-making desire of the modern 
gilder is to make his ground as smooth and level as 
the face of a plate-glass mirror; this is obtained by 
immaculate planed wood, and soft whitening grounds 
laid on very thinly, and water-polished to get this 
smooth monotonous surface which gives no variety 
of facets able to reveal the lustre of the gold. 
Rather than aim at machine-like perfection in mould* 
ings and surface, it is better deliberately to aim at a 
certain ruggedness and want of finish, and in frames, 
rounded corners, and obtuse angles and half-choked 
hollows, for the sake of the gold, that its reflecting 
planes may be multiplied. Of course a perfect smooth- 
ness to the touch like satin is essential in a gild- 
ing ground. Follow the method of the Trattato, and 
the work will be as overlaid with gold. But it is a 
very difficult art to acquire in perfection. The tools 
are the same now as then, and can be bought. The 
present practice is usually to take up the sheets of 
gold on the tip of an equally wide brush of badger's 
hair, which is sometimes lightly passed over the hair 
of the head first, to make the gold adhere sufficiently 
to the brush. It is difficult to manage more than 
half a sheet at a time. Burnishing can be done bit 
by bit as the work proceeds, twenty minutes to half- 
an-hour after the leaves are laid on. This requires 
great lightness and care, or thfe gold will be rubbed 
off by the burnisher. Most old gilding is burnished 
sufficiently to give a beautiful lustre, but not so much 
as to rob it of its yellow colour by being too strongly 
reflecting. Gilding must either be burnished or have 

Gilding 241 

a thin size or shellac layer passed over it. A very 
weak and very clear parchment size with a few drops 
of spirits of wine in it will do. In trade gilding this 
is generally an unnecessarily sticky thick coating, 
attracting dirt and becoming brown. Ready-prepared 
mixtures can be bought called ormolu. The fine silver 
varnish mentioned p. 264 answers very well. Until 
this is done the gilding is full of creases and would 
rub off. White of egg or glaire is only used now by 
bookbinders ; trade gilding is done with parchment size, 
or with gold size, that is, oil-mordants. Size is not so 
durable as egg, and oil-gilding cannot be burnished. 1 

There are many variations of the ground to be used 
under gold in books. Sometimes bole is added, some- 
times biacca is omitted, sometimes honey is used instead 
of sugar. 

Gold-leaf can be bought now of any thickness from 
first-class gold-beaters. 2 

Nothing should be used but that called 'fine 
gold,' which is as. pure as is possible. Double fine 
gold is thick enough to gild in one layer. Gold-leaf 
at fifteen shillings per book of twenty-four sheets is 
like tinfoil in substance. 

Cennino complains that goldsmiths made from a 
ducat 145 leaves of gold instead of 100, this not 
being in his opinion thick enough for flat surfaces. 
The Venetian ducat and the Florentine gold florin, first 

1 Modern gilding methods are described fairly fully in such books 
as " Workshop Receipts," by Ernest Spon. 

2 For instance Whiley, Whitfield Street, W., who also sells an admir- 
able pure ground gold used by French gilders, with which on a proper 
ground burnished gold can be made. 

242 Mediaeval Methods 

struck in the thirteenth century, both weighed 54 
grains, or about oz. In the Lucca MS. the gold-leaf 
is beaten from an alloy of a sescuncia of gold and 
another of silver. Two sescunciae are three ounces. 
From this 1024 leaves were made. Three ounces of 
gold would make 2700 of Cennino's thickest leaves. 
The size of a leaf was probably the same. In the 
Schedula (I. xxiv) the parchment sheets of the books 
in which the gold was beaten were to be square pieces, 
measuring each way the breadth of the four fingers, 
that is, about three inches. Gold leaves measure about 
this now, and are beaten in the same way. Vasari 
(Introd. xxviii) gives their size as the 8th of a braccio 
(the Florentine braccio was 23 inches), and says that in 
his time 1000 pieces were worth about three ducats 
including the labour. Nowadays ordinary gold-leaf 
weighs about 4 to 5 grs. for 25 sheets, worth of a 
shilling, or about 2500 are made from an ounce, or, 
it is to be presumed, about 1200 of double leaf, as 
against 900 in Cennino's time. Pure gold is frequently 
used for out-of-door gilding in London, as, for in- 
stance, the statue of the Albert memorial. 

Among the accounts of the expenses of decorat- 
ing with painting the royal chapel of St. Stephen at 
Westminster in Edward III.'s reign, we find that John 
Lightgrave paid for 600 leaves of gold at the rate of 
five shillings the hundred. , 

The gold-leaf used by the Greeks was thick. The 
famous Erechtheum inscription of 404 B.C. gives one 
drachma as the cost of each leaf (iriraXov) used for 
gilding the marble enrichments. 

Gilding 243 

Some of the books of gold of the ancient Egyptians 
have descended to us. There is one in the Louvre 
(Salle Funtraire, Case Z). 

Pliny's gold-leaf was the square of the breadth of 
four fingers. One ounce, he says, can be beaten into 
750 leaves. In his time gilding was already used 
on plastered walls, and in Book xxxiii. c. 2 he treats 
of engraving on gold and silver in connection with 
painting. White of egg and size were the mordants. 

If tempera- painting is done on a gold ground, 
before the paint is thoroughly dry, that is, within a 
few weeks of being done, it can easily be scraped from 
the gold, in fine lines or more completely. A great 
deal of gold patterning is done in this way in early, 
pictures, and not laid over the paint with mordants. 
This is perhaps the meaning of the word grattare 
(c. 4, note) which I have translated ' engrave in 
lines.' It is best, unless the paint is quite fresh, to 
moisten it before scratching the lines through it. 

Egg-paint is liable to crack from gilding, unless the 
gilding is finished with an ormolu or lacquer (see 
above), or extremely weak parchment size containing 
a few drops of spirits of wine answers the purpose. 
The first coat of paint must not be put on till this 
is thoroughly dry (dried for a day or two), and then 
it must be washed on thinly and lightly, and should 
be similarly dried, and great care must be taken 
not to disturb these preparatory coats in doing the 
subsequent painting. 


IT would be antiquarianism to limit ourselves in paint- 
ing to the pigments available in the fifteenth century. 
As was evidently done by the school Cennino repre- 
sents, we should exercise a wise eclecticism, and in 
doing so, should reject for some purposes pigments 
which he employed, having now better ones. 

Church's " Chemistry of Paints," and Laurie's " Pro- 
cesses, Pigments, and Vehicles " should be studied by 
every painter. It is, however, certain that colours 
which we consider dangerous or fugitive have been em- 
ployed successfully both in tempera and oil painting. 
In tempera probably a great deal is due in the way of 
permanence to the protecting final varnish, which can 
always be renewed when needful. 

Black (c. 37). Practically prepared from the same 
materials now, adding burnt bone and ivory. Black 
earth is not now used as a pigment Black earth of 
Rome and of Venice is mentioned by other writers. 
Terre noire is mentioned in the De Mayerne MS. 
(quoted by Eastlake, I. p. 466) : " Qui facilement se 

1 For information about pigments of the whole Renaissance period I 
would refer especially to the Introduction to Mrs. Merrifield's " Ancient 
Practice of Painting " and her " Fresco Painting." The notes to the 
German translation of Cennino refer to numerous passages in other 
early writings where the pigments are mentioned. 


Cennino's Pigments 245 

seiche, est gras et s'e*tend fort bien et vaut mieux 
que le charbon commun . . . le bleu noif, pour peindre 
satin, &c." Blue black decolorises organic pigments 
by precipitating their particles. Ivory black and its 
cognates do'es this in a greater and lamp-black in 
a less degree, according to Professor Church, but 
lamp-black has always borne the worst character. 
"Le noir de fume*e est venin parmy les autres couleurs 
ainsi que le verdigris." l Vasari speaks of its injurious 
effects in the Life of Raffael and of Bartolommeo. 
Leonardo (Trattato,c. 35.3), Hoogstraten (see Eastlake, 
p. 466), and Lebrun condemn it. Mrime*e, however, 
in his " Oil- Painting," says that, well calcined and 
washed, it may be used without danger. 

Sinopia (c. 38). This -must be taken as the generic 
name given first to the red earth of Sinope, but in- 
cluding all bright red ochreous earths. The most 
valued was the rubrica of Lemnos, which came nearest 
to the colour of vermilion, and with this (as well as 
with red lead), according to Pliny, 'they give the 
undercoating to minium* (vermilion). In the Lucca 
MS., which hands on the classical methods, Sinopia 
is mentioned as making, when burnt and mixed with 
red lead, a colour similar to cinnabar (vermilion again). 
In later northern documents sinopia means madder. 
Native red earths are perfectly safe, and light red, 
which ought to be calcined yellow ochre (also known to 
the ancients), but Venetian reds now are often arti- 
ficial, and seldom free from soluble salts and sulphates, 

1 Brussels MS, ; "Ancient Practice of Painting," Vol. II. p. 823. 

246 Mediaeval Methods 

and may injure other colours. Artificial ferric oxides 
are also more likely to darken than natural earths. 

Natural red earth is one of the earliest colours to 
be mentioned. The Greek name for red earths was 
miltoSy and this is the word used in the Septuagint in 
Ezekiel xxiii. 14, 15, where we have vermilion. Jeru- 
salem gives her erring love to "the men portrayed 
upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed 
with vermilion (fitXro Ypa<f>iSi\ girded with girdles 
upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their 
heads, all of them princes to look upon." See also 
Jerem. xxiii. 14 : " Ceiled with cedar and painted with 
vermilion." Homer mentions that the Greek ships 
were painted with this miltos, which shows the high 
estimation in which it was held. He hardly speaks of 
other colours at all. It is evident from Pliny that all 
red colours, especially vermilion and purpurissum, the 
shell-fish crimson, appealed to the splendour-loving 
Romans, as the celestial blue of ultramarine appealed 
to heaven-seeking Christian painters. Pliny's praise 
of purpurissum is quite a poem. Agobard (779-840), 
in his controversy against images, says : " For not yet 
had the error arisen by which now pictures (effi- 
gies, portraits) represented with charcoal, minium, or 
sinopia were called holy images and were ordered 
to be worshipped." A monkish writer of saints' lives 
in the ninth century speaks of. one Willelmus Dux, 
"who was wont to pass his time in palaces shining 
with gold and painted with sinopis." Pliny says 
" sinopia is used both for painting with the brush 
and for colouring wood . . . that which is of the 

Cennino's Pigments 247 

deepest red is most in use for colouring compartments " 
(in wall decorations). Probably this was the pigment 
used by Theophilus for reddening wood (L. I. c. 22), 
and the rubeum which could be mixed with lime on 
a wall under cinnabar. From other passages in Theo- 
philus, where it is used as a shadow colour, it seems 
to have been a dark red, perhaps the usta of Pliny, 
without which he says shadows cannot be made, and 
which was variously a burnt ochre, an Asiatic colour 
called purpurea, very likely Indian red, also red lead. 
Red earths are extraordinarily enduring on plaster, as 
may be seen in many an old church, where little else 
remains of the original frescoes. Sinopia was one 
of the four colours that Apelles used in what Pliny 
thought the ' grand style.' 

Cinnabar (c. 40) is our vermilion, a sulphide of 
mercury. The Romans and Greeks used the natural 
ore, and called it respectively minium and cinnabar. 
Minium now means red lead, which was use to adul- 
terate the more costly mineral, and at last received its 
name. The true minium was the colour of pomp and 
triumph. It was used to paint the face of the image 
of Jupiter and the bodies of the victors in the triumphs. 
It came to Rome from Spain, where it was said to be 
found with the ores of quicksilver, and formed part of 
the revenues of the Roman people. " Indeed there is 
nothing guarded with a more constant circumspec- 
tion, for it is not allowable to reduce and refine the 
ore upon the spot, it being brought to Rome in a crude 
state, and under seal, to the amount of two thousand 
pounds per annum. At Rome the process of washing 

248 Mediaeval Methods 

is performed, and in the sale of it the price is regu- 
lated by statute, it not being allowed to exceed seventy 
sesterces per Ib." 1 In spite of precautions, it was much 
adulterated with red lead, red arsenic, and red ochres. 
A more justifiable economy was under-painting with 
red lead no doubt in the large flat spaces of house 
decoration. 2 "One motive, however, of giving an 
undercoat of syricum (red lead) to minium, is the 
evident saving of expense that results therefrom. 
Minium, too, in another way affords a very convenient 
opportunity to painters for pilfering by washing their 
brushes filled with, the colouring matter every now 
and then. The minium, of course, falls to the bottom, 
and is thus so much gained by the thief" (Pliny). 
After the classical writers, until the sixteenth century 8 
there are no allusions to the natural ore. In the 
Lucca MS. of the eight century there is the first clear 
account of the process for making artificial vermilion by 
the sublimation of mercury and sulphur; and through 
the Middle Ages the recipes for this are numerous. 
Two distinct methods are now known, called the 
dry or Dutch way, and the wet way, which has super- 
seded the other in Europe. The dry method is con- 
tinued in China, and Chinese vermilions should be 
used by artists, as the vermilion produced by subli- 
mation is undoubtedly more permanent than that made 
in the wet way. 4 t 

1 Pliny, L. xxxiii. 

* In newly uncovered decoration at Pompeii, vermilion of magni- 
ficent colour may be seen. 
1 "Ancient Practice of Painting," p. clxxii. 
4 "Chemistry of Paints," p. 149. 

Cennino's Pigments 249 

Except for one peculiarity vermilion is a most re- 
liable colour. This is that the scarlet pigment is iden- 
tical in composition with black sulphide of mercury, 
and sunlight is able without any other agent to turn 
the red crystalline, into the black amorphous form. 
When locked up with oil and varnish this change does 
not take place. Apparently it does not take place in 
tempera either, being often brilliant, where the rest of 
the picture has faded or darkened. I am speaking 
of pictures in the ordinary light of galleries and 
churches. Vermilion has also usually lasted perfectly 
in frescoes in rooms. The change was well known 
in open-air frescoes. Pliny and Vitruvius mention 
the injury caused by the sun's rays and the moon's 
rays, and to guard against it give a method 'of 
varnishing with oil and wax. Some such protection 
is supposed to have preserved vermilion in the wall- 
paintings of Pompeii. The change has been most 
frequently noticed in MSS. Professor Church notices 
the capricious change which has taken place in the 
same MS. in initial letters : " I have more than 
once observed that, while all the vermilion used in 
one part of a missal or choral-book has remained red, 
a leaden hue has spread irregularly over the rest of 
the work in places where this pigment has been 
used." He conjectures that this is owing to the em- 
ployment of a different sample of vermilion or a 
different technique. 1 I think that the deliberate 
mixture of red lead with vermilion by miniaturists 
may partly account for these changes. In the MS. 

1 " Chemistry of Paints," p. 150. 

250 Mediaeval Methods 

of St. Andemar, for instance (thirteenth or four- 
teenth century), we find in two consecutive recipes 
directions for mixing vermilion and minium for 
illuminating a manuscript. He remarks that this 
mixed minium will turn black in the sun, and ifj 
a thickly painted letter does not dry well it must 
be dried at the fire. M^rime'e mentions the rapid 
discoloration at a picture exhibition of a drapery 
painted with red lead. Professor Church excludes 
red lead from his list of artist's pigments. 1 No doubt 
vermilion varies in quality according to the thorough- 
ness of the sublimation and the washing it undergoes. 
The best now, as Cennino thought, is that which is 
formed at the top of the retorts. Special attention 
was paid by the missal-painters to the thorough 
incorporation of vermilion with its tempera. In the 
Strasburg MS. 2 (590) beginning fifteenth century it 
is to be ground with gum, a'nd a few drops of yolk of 
egg and clarified white of egg was added for the actual 
painting. In the Bolognese MS. (224) washing with 
ley and then water is directed ; the tempera is white of 
egg and fig-juice and saffron, and a little yolk if more 
body is wanted, with eaf-wax to prevent gloss. 

According to Professor Church, the different shades 
are principally obtained by regrinding and washing 
over, the coarser grain being inclined to crimson. 
This tint is probably more ^permanent than the 
orange tint. 

In old treatises we must always judge from the 
context what pigment is indicated by any name. 

1 Me*rimeYs "Oil- Painting," p. 112, note. 3 Published in Beitrdge. 

Cennino's Pigments 251 

Vermiculum generally means kermes lake a hard 
red ochre is sometimes called mineral cinnabar. 
Cinnabar meant vermilion to the Greeks, but to 
Pliny dragon's blood. Minium, sinopia, azzurro, 
giallorino, indigo, lake, have varying significations 
according to the place and period. This list could 
be extended. 

C. 41. Red (tetroxide) lead when fresh has an ex- 
ceedingly fine orange colour but no way is known of 
preserving its freshness. It should not be used in the 
sulphuretted air of our towns. Possibly the wonderful 
flaming drapery in Michael Angelo's Entombment 
(N.G.) is painted with it. 

Amatito (c. 42). Haematite is another name for 
the ferric oxides which supply us with Indian red 
and other ochres; but it occurs in a great many 
different forms, some of them hard and crystalline, 
and it seems probable that some such variety very 
crimson in tint was known to fresco-painters. Vasari 
mentions the stone by the name of matita dura, 
which when ground was to be used with the matita 
rossa. 1 Mrs. Merrifield received specimens of hard 
and soft haematite from Roche in Cornwall. Calcined, 
she found it varied from lake to violet, according to 
the length of time it was exposed to the fire. It 
is worth noting that in Cennino's time cardinals 
(he says the pigment makes their colour) wore purple. 
They received the red hat in 1247 from Innocent 
IV., but they did not adopt the red dress till 1464, 
under Paul II. In the Bolognese MS. (136) we find 

1 Introd., c. xxxii. See similarly Leonardo, Traitato, c. 353. 

252 Mediaeval Methods 

that a strong alkali is to be added to Brazil-wood 
crimson, to turn it violet and make cardinal-colour. 

Dragoris blood (c. 43). The popular name of the in- 
spissated juice or resin of several plants, as Calamus 
draco, Pterocarpus draco, and especially Dracana draco, 
the dragon-tree of Teneriffe. 1 The colour is more like 
that of blood than any other, and this may have given 
rise to Pliny's fable ; he defines cinnabar as the thick 
matter which issues from the dragon when crushed 
beneath the weight of the dying elephant, mixed with 
their blood (xxxiii. 38). It is now used for tinting 
spirit arid turpentine varnishes, and by chemists to 
colour drugs. I have seen in an early English picture, 
exhibited at the Society of Antiquaries in 1896, a 
wonderful transparent blood-colour in varnish which 
was conceivably this pigment. 

Lacca (c. 44). Real and artificial madders have 
replaced other lakes. What pigment was used to pro- 
duce the lovely pinks and crimsons of the early Italian 
painters is not really known with exactness. Madder 
is scarcely mentioned in Italian documents between 
the Lucca MS. and the middle of the sixteenth century, 
though known in the north. Their raw materials were 
kermes t.e. the bodies of the Coccus illicis gum lac, 
which was imported into Venice, and Brazil-wood or 
verzino. The kermes grain was in great repute for a 
permanent dye. Piers Plowman describing the dress 
of a lady richly clad, says her robe was of ' scarlet in 
grain,' that is, scarlet dyed with grana. 2 The painters 
seem to have always extracted the dye from the cloth 

1 Imperial Dictionary. a "Vision," written about 1350. 

Cennino's Pigments 253 

instead of direct from the insect. Kermes lake seems 
to incline to blood-colour, and lac lake towards rose or 
pink. The lakes of Florence and of Venice were both 
celebrated; the latter, judging from the colour, were 
probably lac. In the fourteenth century Florence 
and Venice were celebrated for their red stuffs dyed 
with kermes, which were largely exported. As early 
as 1 220 the Provencals imported lac for dyeing. Some 
old pinks and crimsons are hardly to be imitated by 
madder colours. The balsams seem to prevent the 
fading of lakes which are generally considered hope- 
lessly fugitive. 1 

Yellow ochre (c. 45). This perfectly permanent 
pigment needs no comment except that it is best to 
use the natural earths rather than artificial ferric 
pigments, which have more tendency to redden. In 
tempera they are variously good as driers. A genuine 
yellow ochre dries admirably. Raw sienna and burnt 
sienna are not so drying in body, but, being transparent 
by nature, glaze well. This was one of the four pig- 
ments of Apelles, according to Pliny, who expresses 
regret at the conquest of splendour over simplicity. 
" Four colours only, white from Melos, attic yellow, red 
from Sinope on the Black Sea, and the black called 
atramentum were used by Apelles, ^Etion, Melanthios, 
and Nikomachus in their immortal works, illustrious 
artists, a single one of whose pictures the wealth 
of a city could hardly suffice to buy ; while now that 
even purple clothes our walls, and India contributes 

1 See especially on this subject, Cantor Lectures (A. P. Laurie), 
p. 3L 

254 Mediaeval Methods 

the ooze of her rivers (probably indigo, perhaps a red) 
and the blood of dragons and elephants, no famous 
picture is painted. We must believe that when the 
painter's equipment was less complete the results were 
in every respect better, for, as I have already said, we 
are alive only to the worth of the material, and not to 
the genius of the artist." 

Giallorino (c. 46). The word is a diminutive of 
giallo, and means pale yellow. There is no doubt 
that Cennino believed his pale yellow to be a native 
mineral of volcanic origin, but the school of mines 
can give no clue to a native bright yellow mineral 
antimoniate of lead which, artificially made, has for a 
long while been considered the true Naples yellow. 
Marcucci 1 says that giallo di Napoli is a compound of 
yellow oxide of lead and the oxide antimony. Gerolt 
states that a native massicot of a sulphur-yellow colour 
(lead deutoxide) has been ejected from some of the 
Mexican volcanoes and collected in considerable quanti- 
ties along the streams. Massicot was found by Branchi 
in analyses of old pictures at Pistoia. True artificial 
Naples yellow is hardly to be had now, nor can it be 
called a very safe colour, as it blackens rapidly from 
mere traces of sulphur compounds. Aureolin (cobalt 
yellow) and middle cadmium are better and more 
reliable colours. Aureolin is slowly turned red if 
painted with bad egg, I suppose, because the sulphur 
liberated by decomposition makes a red compound 
with its cobalt base. For the same reason (the 

oy ? 66. 

Cennino's Pigments 255 

presence of sulphur) it may be unadvisable to mix 
cadmium with aureolin. Cadmium blackens emerald 

Orpiment (king's yellow), c. 47. The auripigmen- 
tum of the ancients, a natural yellow sulphide of arsenic 
brought now from Vesuvius. It can be mixed with 
no colour containing lead or copper. In Eraclius 
(iii. 57) we find "orpiment has no light tint, because 
it mars all colours." Bright yellows were few, so 
the old painters all used it, giving all kinds of con- 
flicting directions as to the best tempera for it. White 
made from calcined stag's horns was used to lighten 
it. It has the best chance alone, over yellow ochre. 
Most often the tempera is yolk of egg. Vandyck 
painted it by itself, with ground glass to make it 
dry. Professor Church says it fades, and condemns 
its use. 

Risalgallo (c. 48). Realgar or red orpiment; see 
above. A lump of realgar in egg-vehicles was often 
recommended to keep them sweet. 

Zafferano (saffron), c. 49. Wholly disused for artis- 
tic purposes. 

Arzica (c. 50). It is not impossible that massicot 
is intended called azarcon in Spain. 

Verde-terra (c. 5 1 ). Permanent and reliable. In 
tempera not a very good drier. It is pleasant under 
gilding where a cool tone is wanted, but does not 
hold the gold as well as bole. Cennino gives here 
some justification to Vasari's assertion that Margari- 
tone first used bole in gilding, but Pliny's ground 
was red (see also c. 133). 

256 Mediaeval Methods 

Verde-azzurro (malachite), c. 52. A carbonate of 
copper, and closely allied to azzurro della magna. 
It is the chrysocolla of Pliny. It has sometimes 
lasted well both in oil and - tempera, probably 
when well protected by a hardened vehicle. It is 
blackened by sulphur. The usual name is green 

C. 53. Indigo is one of the few colours that can 
be mixed with orpiment. 

Verderame (verdigris), c. 56. There is no safe way 
of using this very beautiful colour (acetate of copper) 
except in a spirit or turpentine varnish. It was usually 
tempered with wine alone for MSS. The green drapery 
in Van Eyck's Arnolfini is thought to be painted with 
it, and the presence in the varnish of Venice turpentine 
or a similar balsam may account for its freshness. 

Bianco sangiovanni (c. 58). The fresco white. 

Biacca (white lead), c. 59. The cerussa and psim- 
mithin of the ancients ; the only white pigment of the 
Lucca MS. and of the Schedula and the Hermeneia, 
except for wall-painting. It was the pigment univer- 
sally used in tempera and missal painting. Nothing 
could be fresher than the white portions of tempera 
pictures, but the ever-present sulphuretted hydrogen 
of modern life makes the use of zinc white preferable, 
especially as it works well and there is no objection 
to its use, and it is not affected'by sulphur compound. 
The cup-shaped top of the cakes of white lead men- 
tioned here is given on the Continent by pressing 
it into unglazed pots and drying it to a solid mass 
in stove-rooms; a process most injurious to the 
workers, and unknown here. 

Cennino's Pigments 257 

Azzurro della magna (c. 60). Mountain blue, or 
blue verditer, i.e. blue carbonate of copper perhaps 
Pliny's armenium. 1 

This beautiful colour has a tendency to become 
green, especially in tempera, and now that we have 
cobalt and French ultramarine may perhaps be dis- 
pensed with. There is often some confusion between 
this azure and that from the lapis-lazuli. The 
Bolognese MS. distinguishes clearly between this 
latter coming from beyond the sea (ultra mare) and 
the German or Teutonic azure (azurrum almaneum or 
d'Allemania). The price of true lapis-lazuli stones is 
here given at 2 to 5 ducats the pound, and of the others 
at 12 to 30 bolognini (bolognini = six quattrini = Jd.), 
and the best ultramarine is said to be worth 5 ducats 
per ounce, and the Geifman i to 3 ducats the pound. 
Pacheco relates that when Philip Count of Flanders 
had a copy made of Van Eyck's Ghent picture they 
sent to Titian, who was at Venice, for some of a 
natural azure, which is found in Hungary, which was 
formerly very easy to procure before the Turks were 
masters of that province. This must have been the 
blue carbonate. 2 

The German chemist J. F. John found that the 
greens on the temples and tombs at Thebes were a 
copper blue mixed with a vegetable yellow, held on 
by size. However, this might perhaps be the artificial 
Vestorian blue copper-frit. 

1 Beautiful specimens of this and malachite may be seen at the 
School of Mines. Jermyn Street, W. 
* "Ancient Practice of Painting," Vol. I. xlv. 


258 Mediaeval Methods 

Indigo (c. 61). This colour, the juice of the Indigo- 
fera tinctoria, was known from classic times, and was 
also imitated with woad. It seems often to have been 
used in fresco, but must be reckoned a very fugitive 
pigment however employed. Its bad character is indi- 
cated in the following passage from the Liber Horn } 
fol. 341, temp. Edw. II. : " Rules as to painting old 
and new saddles. It is provided that no one put any 
but good and pure colours upon gold or silver, that is 
to say, good cynople (madder), good green, good ver- 
milion, or other colours, tempered with oil, and not 
brasil (logwood), indigo of Baldas, or any other bad 

Azzurro oltre marine (c. 62). It is uncertain 
whether the ultramarine of the lapis-lazuli was known 
to the Romans, or whether their native cyanus was 
the blue carbonate of copper. It was highly valued, 
almost reverenced, in the Middlle Ages. It was often 
specially stipulated in contracts, most often supplied by 
the person who ordered the picture, as was usual in 
the case of several of the brighter pigments in Roman 
times. Vasari tells a story about ultramarine like 
Pliny's about the pilfering of vermilion (p. 248). When 
Perugino was painting in the convent of the Ingesuati, 
the prior, who himself prepared ultramarine blues, 
wished them to be used, but was suspicious of the 
painter, and insisted on being present while he was 
painting with them. Perugino outwitted him by the 
same trick, but in the end returned him his blue with a 
wholesome admonition against distrust. Ultramarine 
was deemed a gift worthy of kings, and the free 

Cennino's Pigments 259 

use of it in the church of Assisi, for instance, is 
witness how lavishly it was bestowed. A vase is 
treasured there which contained a gift of it from the 
Queen of Cyprus. In Le B&gue's French recipes it is 
said to be worth its weight in gold, which sounds 
priceless for a paint, and now the best costs retail 
just twice its weight in gold, yet a drapery or a sky 
may be painted with it, in tempera, at least without 
any excessive expense, for its power and covering 
qualities are enormous. It is the purest blue there 
is, and the sky blue which best retains its colour 
under artificial illumination. As is always the case 
with natural pigments, it is more permanent than 
artificial ultramarine, and is also more beautiful. 
Cobalt, it is true, replaces it for most purposes, and 
is as permanent, but its colour is more purplish. 

The method of preparation of the ' ethereal colour,' 
as St. Audemar calls it, is very frequently given, and 
is the same as here in the Trattato, with unimportant 

The advice in c. 82, to make as few folds as 
possible in an ultramarine drapery, accords with what 
we can see for ourselves in pictures, and with the 
pleasure that we take in the blue depths of an un- 
troubled, cloudless sky. As to the advisable tempera 
for ultramarine, I have not been able to see the 
necessity for size, as yolk of egg does not spoil the 
blue colour. Oil undoubtedly does alter it. This 
pigment and the madders might be injured in tint 
by mixing vinegar or acetic acid with the egg, but I 
have not noticed any change. It would be immediate, 
as the acid evaporates. 

260 Mediaeval Methods 

The great cost of ultramarine is shown by the fact 
that a copy of the Vulgate belonging to Corpus 
Christi College, Cambridge, has been robbed of the 
ultramarine backgrounds of its numerous miniature 
pictures, no doubt scraped off to use again by some 
mediaeval scribe. 1 This is not a solitary case of such 

Ultramarine is a very compound substance, silicon, 
aluminium, sodium, sulphur, and oxygen being all 
found in it; and combinations of these with other 
materials, as charcoal, are used in the manufacture of 
the artificial pigment. 

These scrappy notes will fulfil their object if they 
enable a few readers to realise the love of the early 
masters for their" pigments, like a musician's for his 
violin ; and if they incline others to study the subject 
more thoroughly and practically. They can be no 
substitute for such manuals and texts-books as have 
been already mentioned. Other books of reference 
" A Practical Treatise on the Manufacture of Colours 
for Painting," Riffault, Vergnaud, and Toussaint, trans- 
lated from French by A. A. Fesquet, 1874; Bulletins 
des Commissions Royales, Belgium, xxii. 1883. 

1 See "Illuminated MSS.," Middleton, p. 241. 


PANEL-PICTURES of the period of the Trattato seem 
to have been varnished as a matter of course. The 
Statute of the Guild of Painters of Venice of 1272 
orders that no picture should be sold unvarnished. 
It is usually considered that the pale greenish scheme 
of flesh colouring adopted was intended to compensate 
a warm yellow or red-toned varnish. It seems to me, 
however, that this is doubtful, for the varnish would 
have the same toning effect on the reds and whites, 
and the freshness of these was so prized that even an 
egg-yolk of a dark tint was to be avoided, and this 
really makes very little difference (see c. 147). The 
same pink and white freshness is praised in an old 
German poem describing a portrait : 

" Her colour bright and good, 
' Shone like milk and blood, 
Red and white well mingled, 
With varnish and white paint" 

" Ir varwe licht unde gflt 

Rehte als milich und blut 

Wol gemUchet rot und wiz 

Ane blank und an verniz." 
EneideofHeinrithvon Valdecke, 1155-1184. 

It is clear that Cennino wished for as pale a varnish 

as could be procured (c. 155). 


262 Mediaeval Methods 

The question what this varnish was composed of 
has been discussed frequently, and it seems to be 
accepted that it was sandarach resin 1 dissolved in a 
fixed oil; but it can be shown that several varnishes 
were probably known in Italy at that time which 
would be paler than sandarach, as that has a reddish 
tint. In the Strasburg MS. (German, beginning of 
fifteenth century), about contemporary with the Trat- 
tato, there is the following passage : " This little book 
teaches how all colours are to be tempered for painting 
according to Lombardic customs . . . and teaches also 
to make three kinds of varnish." There is some little 
doubt about the word translated Lombardic. The 
recipes for the varnishes are not so clear as might be 
wished, but they are probably: (i) either amber or 
sandarach, (2) mastic, (3) Venice turpentine, boiled 
with linseed, hemp-seed, or old nut-oil. All oil- 
varnishes darken with time, and we now use a spirit 
mastic varnish on pictures. A fourth varnish in the 
Strasburg MS. is oil, mastic, and terpentuum; this 
may be spirits of turpentine, but the resin seems more 
likely to be intended. 

Some of the early varnishes contain ingredients 
which would give them a yellow colour. This is the 
case with both the elaborate compounds in the Lucca 
MS., one for colours and the other for gilding, if 
flora puppli is an alchemical term for orpiment 
(Berthelot). The first is described ' de lucide ad 
lucidas' (of the lustre for transparent painting). It 
consists of amber, mastic, three kinds of turpentine 

1 See especially Eastlake, "Materials." 

On Early Varnishes 263 

resin, galbanum, myrrh, two gums, and a small quantity 
of linseed oil, besides this florae puppli. The varnish 
for gilding is nearly the same, with the addition of 
saffron. One is strongly reminded of the multifarious 
and arbitrary combinations of the ancient materia 
medica. Later on varnishes became simpler, as in 
the Schedula (see p. xxix), but later again, especially 
in Italy, they were often compound, and the balsams 
which have been shown lately to be very efficacious in 
preserving fugitive pigments, that is, Venice turpentine 
and olio di abezzo, play a conspicuous part in them. 
I have recently become acquainted with an inherited 
compound varnish of amber and balsam and mastic, 
with a little oil and spike-oil, which has been ' proved ' 
through the lives of a father and son. Although 
amber is a dark varnish, it is not certain that it 
darkens. Colours mixed with it can be kept from 
the light without darkening. I have not yet been 
able to test this varnish on tempera, but I hope to 
do so. 

It is commonly stated that old tempera pictures 
become penetrated with their varnish, and cannot be 
distinguished from oil. On the contrary, most four- 
teenth and fifteenth century tempera-work has shed 
the original varnish by this time, spontaneously or 
with assistance. It does not seem to sink in at all. 
I have seen all the varnish crumble away from a 
recently painted tempera picture which was hanging 
on a rather damp wall, and the picture remained un- 
injured. I varnished another myself with a mastic 
varnish which turned out to be of poor quality, and 

264 Mediaeval Methods 

of wine 

I washed it off with pure rectified spirits 
without injuring the picture at all. 1 A mastic spirit 
varnish is the safest for tempera, but a good shellac 
varnish * is sometimes useful. It gives a slight gloss, 
very pleasant, but I am afraid it is not very dur- 
able. 8 

I have not found it necessary to size work before 
varnishing, and an experiment that I tried was un- 
successful) even disastrous. 

The practice of drying pictures in the sun may 
have arisen from the varnish containing one of 
the slow-drying balsams, and not only from the oil 
composing the varnish not being sufficiently well 

In the Hermeneia there are directions for a method 
of preparing balsam, i.e. turpentine resin, so as to 
be fit to enter into the composition of varnishes. 

It is certain from experiments (John) that the 
Egyptians had oil-varnish, and Pliny can scarcely 
have meant anything else by his atramentum, through 
which the picture was seen as through talc, also by 
the ' splendour ' added under the reign of Augustus. 

1 Tempera cannot be washed with water without great risk. Pure 
benzine may be used. 

2 Fine silver varnish (Gedge, John Street, Spitalfields). Really a 

3 Mr. Spencer Stanhope told me he thought tempera never dries 
completely in this country, and should not, be varnished, but I think 
this is not true. 


Papyri Grceti y torn. ii. x. ; Lugduni Batavorum, Leemans. 

Fourth century. 

Lucca MS., Cathedral Library, Lucca. Eighth century. 
Schedula of Theophilus, edited by Hendrie. Elevehth or 

twelfth century. 

Mappa Clavicula, edited by Sir T. Phillips. Twelfth century. 
Anonymous Berncnsis, published in QpelUnsckriften. 
Eraclius, thirteenth century ; St Audemar, thirteenth century ; 

and other documents, fonning the Le Begue collection; 

Bolognese MS., fourteenth century, and others, published 

in " Ancient Practice of Painting," Merrifield. 
Sloane MS., British Museum, No. 1754. 
LArtcTenluminer^ Le Coy de la Marche, containing the original 

Latin of the Naples MS. Fourteenth century. 
Strasburg MS. ; Eastlake's MS., copy in National Gallery 

Library, now published in Beitrdge. Fifteenth century. 
Hermeneia of Mount Athos, French Translation in Icono- 

graphie Chrhienne^ Didron ; German edition, Schafer, 

Compiled eleventh to seventeenth century. 
Filarete, "Treatise on Architecture." 1465. See QuelUn- 


Alessio, Sccreti. 1559. 
Valentinius Roltz, Illuminirbuch. 1 566. 
Rosselli, Dei secreti universali. 1664. 
Vasari, Opere. Edition Milanesi. 
Armenini, /^' vert precetti delta pittura. 1 586. 
Lomazzo, DelV artc de la pittura. \ 584. 
Pacheco, Arte de la Pintura. 1641. 
Palomino, Kl musco Pitorico. 17 '5* 

266 Books of Reference 

" Antiquities of Westminster." J. T. Smith. 

Vetusta Monumenta. Royal Society of Antiquaries. 

" Observations on the Westminster Abbey Portrait of Richard 
III." Sir George Scharf. 

" Catalogue of Exhibitions of English Mediaeval Painters." 
Royal Society of Antiquaries, 1896. 

Pisa Illustrata. Morrona. Edition Livorno, 1812. 

" Fresco-Painting." Merrifield. 

"Treatise on Fresco, Encaustic, and Tempera." Latilla. 

Traite Complet de Peinture^ vol. viii. Paillot de Montabert. 

LEncaustique et les autres proctdts de peinture. Cros and 

" Oil- Painting." Mdrime*e. 

" Materials for a History of Oil-Painting." Eastlake. 

Excurs iiber die Oel-Malerei. Ilg, in Quellenschriften. 

Beitrdge zur Entwickelungsgeschichte der Maltechnik. E. 
Berger. Munich, 1897. 

Quellenschriften fur Kunstgeschichte. Eitelberger von Edel- 
berg. Vienna, 1871, &c. 

Wandgemalde von Vestw-wrschiitteten Stadten. Helbig and 

Bulletins des Commissions Royales of Belgium, vol. xxii. 

Histoire de la Chimie dumoyen dge. Berthelot. 

" A Practical Treatise on the Manufacture of Colours for Paint- 
ing." Riffault, Vergnaud, and Toussaint. Translated 
from the French by A. A. Fesquet, 1874, with an Intro- 
duction on the colours employed by the ancients. 

"Hawara," &c. " Kahun, Gutot, and Hawara." Flinders 

" Science of Painting." Vibert. 

" Chemistry of Painting." Professor Church. 

" Processes, Pigment, and Vehicles." A. P. Laurie. 

Cantor Lectures. A. P. Laurie, Society for Encouragement 
of Arts, Manufactures, and Comrrferce. 



NOTE. The text is referred to by chapters, the rest of 
the volume by pages. 

ACETIC acid, with egg-vehicles, p. 2 1 1 

Aetius, p. 221 

Albumen, c. 132; pp. 210, 211. See also Egg-vehicles, 

Whole Egg 
Alum, cc. 1 6 1, 173 

Aluminous earths used in adulterating oil-paint, p. 214 
Amatisto, pigment, cc. 18, 42, 72, 74, 76, 80;. p. 251 

for burnishing, cc. 42, 135, 136. See also Bur- 
nishing Stone 

Anonymous Bernensis^ p. 196 
Apprenticeship, p. xi; cc. 2, 3, 4, 104 
Arabian science, p. xxvi 
Armenini, pp. 218, 238 
Arzica,cc. 50, 54; p. 255 
Ashes used in casting, c 182 

in grounding, c. 170 
Asiso, cc. 157, 158 
Athos, Mount, painting at, pp. xxvii, xxxi-xxxiii; pp. 

216, 217 

Atramentum, black paint, p. xxviii; p. 253 
a varnish, p. 264 

Audemar, St, the MS. of, pp. xxix, xxx, 2*2, 223, 234 


270 Index 

Aureolin, p. 254 

Azzurro della magna, cc. 36, 50, 52, 54, 60, 61, 72, 83, 146 ; 
P- 257 

BALSAM, p. xxi ; pp. 220, 253, 256 

Banners, painted, cc. 162, 165; at South Kensington, 

p. 197 

Bazzeo, i.t. verdaccio, c. 67 
Beer, p. xxx 
Biacca, see White Lead 
Bianco sangiovanni, cc. 36, 39, 57, 58, 61, 67, 68, 69, 71, 

72, 75 76, 78, 80, 93, 144, 150; p. 256 
Black, pp. xx, xxxvi, xxxviii ; p. 244 
how to make, c. 37 

uses of, cc. 22, 67-69, 72, 78 etseqq., 147, 172, 173 
Black crayon, c. 34 

Bole, Armenian, pp. xxxiii, xxxviii; cc. 4, 37, 119, 131- 
134, 141, 152, 158, 162, 165, 168, 174; pp. 241, 


Bolognese MS., pp. xxx, 232, 250 
Bone-dust priming on tablets, cc. 5-8 

on paper or parchment, cc. 10-12, 16 

Boxwood tablets, c. 5 
Bran-water, p. 216 

Brazil-wood, cc. 62, 161, 173; p. 252 
Brushes, hog's bristle, c. 65 
minever, cc. 64, 67 
Burnishing gold, see Gilding * 

parchment, c. 17 

stone, cc. 17, 42, 135, 136 
teeth, c. 135 
Byzantine influence and tradition, pp. xv-xviii, xxv, xxvii 

Index 271 

CAMPHOR to preserve egg, pp. 207, 211 

Candy in parchment gilding ground, c. 157 

Canvas for painting grounds, pp. xxxiii, xxxiv; cc. 162, 

185; p. 218 
Casting, c. 125 

from living body, cc. 181, 186 

from wax impressions, cc. 187, 188 
Ceruse, see White Lead 
Cervisia, i.e. beer, p. xxx 

Chalk for grounds, pp. xix, xxi, xxix, 230, 232, 233 
for casting, c. 125 
tailor's, for drawing, c. 163 
for gilding-ground, c. 168 
Charcoal, as a pigment, cc. 37, 177 

crayons, c. 33, 122 

drawing with, cc. 30, 67, 90, 122, 162, 164 

to polish stones, c. 136 

to turn damp, c. 174 
Cheese-glue, c. 112 
Chestnut-flour paste, c. 105 
Cinabrese, cc. 39, 67, 71, 72, 147, 177 
Cinnabar (vermilion), pp. xxviii, xxxvi-xxxviii ; cc. 40, 42, 
72, 141, 143, 144, 147, 149, 173 ; pp. 220, 245, 247-251 
Clarea, see Egg-vehicles, White of Egg 
Cloth, decorative painting on, cc. 163, 164, 167, 173 
Clothlet colours, cc. 10, 12, 161 
Coffers, decoration of, cc. 128, 170 
Colla di spicchi (a glue), cc. 25, 109, 113 
Colour-box, cc. 36, 93, 172 
Crocus, see Saffron 

DECORATIVE painting, cc 163-170, 173, 177 
Dionysius, author of Hermeneia, p. xxxii 

272 Index 

Dioscorides, p. 221 
Dragon's blood, c. 43 ; p. 252 
Drapery-painting, directions for 

in fresco with cinabrese, c. 71 
with other pigments, cc. 747.8, 80, 84 
in secco with ultramarine, c. 72 
with other pigments, see Secco 
in tempera with lake, c. 145 ; pp. 200, 205 
in oil, cc. 93, 143, 144; pp. 226, 227 
Drapery, changing or shot, in fresco and secco, cc. 77, 78 

79, 80, 81 

of azzurro della magna, c. 83 
of gold, cc. 104, 123, I4i*-i43 
of colour over gold, cc. 141-143 
of silver, cc. 142, 143 
of natural shades of ultramarine, c. 1 46 
of purple, c 146 
like silk, c. 144 
like velvet, cc. 143, 144 
like wool, c. 144 

EARTH colours, c. 36 ; p. 244, 246, 253 

White of egg, in Pliny, p. xxi ; in Papyrus, p. xxiii ; in 
Lucca MS., p. xxiv; in Hermeneia^ 
p. xxxiii ; in Schcdula, p. xxix j in thir- 
teenth-century MSS., p. xxx ; in Stras- 
burg MS., p. xxxv 
analysis of, p. 2^0 
as a varnish, c. 156 
as vehicle for ground gold, c. 160 
for painting, cc. 10, 172 
gilding with, see Gilding 

Index 273 

'Egg-vehicles, continued 

White of egg, mixture of, with fig-milk, pp. 184, 212 
with gum, cc. 158, 159, 185 ; 

p. 208 
>, >, preparation of, 

p. 209 

,, with size, for priming and 

gilding, cc. 162, 165, 166 
with wine, p. 184 

not to be used stale, cc. 10, 134; p. 207 
preparation of, for gilding, cc. 131, 132, 


for painting, pp. 207, 208 

tempera, nature of, p. 211 
,, used to make tempera paiqt lie over 

varnish, c. 170 
Whole egg, in Pliny, pp. xx, xxi; in Hermeneia, 

pp. xxxiii, 237 

with fig-milk for secco, c. J2 
., ,. modern experiment 

with, p. 212 
for priming on wall 

under oil, c. 90 

Yolk of egg, in Schedula, p. xxviii ; in thirteenth-cen- 
tury MSS., p. xxx ; in Podlinnik y p. xxxv 
mentioned by Vasariand Armenini, p. 184 
added to white of egg, p. xxx 
alkaline reaction of, p. 211 
analysis of, p. 210 
as solvent of varnish, c. 179 
as vehicle for drawing with white on paper, 

c. 32 

drying qualities of, pp. 187, 211, 212 


274 Index 

Egg-vehicles, continued 

Yolk of egg, experiments in mixtures with, pp. 185, 

186, 213 

for secco, cc. 72, 83, 146, 218 
how to preserve fresh, p. 207 
in painting human face, c. 179 
., methods of painting with, pp. 194, et seqq. 

See also Panel, Tempera 
mixed with mead, p. 184 

size, cc. 83, 141, 174 
not to be used stale, pp. 207, 208, 212 
on canvas, c. 165 

over gilding and silvering, cc. 141, 143, 144 
preparation of, pp. 196, 211 
the tempera for panel-painting, cc. 52, 54, 

v 5 6 57, 60, 72, 145, 147, 218 
versus e%g-o\\, p. 213 
water added to, pp. 195, 198, 207, 211 
Embroidery designs, cc. 164, 166 
Eraclius, pp. xxvi, xxvii, xxix, xxx, 222 

FIG-MILK, with egg tempera, cc. 72, 90; pp. 184, 211, 212 

Fig-wood, c. 6 

Filarete, p. 227 

Fish-glue, pp. xxi, xxiv, xxix, xxxiv 

uses of, cc. 1 6, 25, 1 08 ; p. 236 
Flesh-painting, in Schedula, p. xxviii ; in Schedula and 
Hermeneia compared, pp. xxxiv-xxxviii ; 
in St. Audemaf, p. xxx-; in Strasburg 
MS., p. 226 
in fresco, cc. 67, 68 ; pp. 201, 219 

in oil, c. 93 
in tempera, cc. 147, 148; p. 202 

Index 275 

Flour for grounds, p. 238 
for paste, c. 105 
for reliefs, c. 129 

Fresco-painting, ancient, pp. xix, xx, 215; in Schedula, 
p. xxviii ; in Lucca MS., pp. xxiv, xxv ; 
in Hermeneia,) pp. 216, 217 
method of, cc. 4, 67-69, 71, 72, 104; 

pp. 213-219. See also Drapery 
pigments for, cc. 38-40, 42, 44-46, 51, 

57, 58, 60, 61 ; pp. 247, 251, 256 
system of chiaroscuro in, p. 201 

GADDI, Agnolo, pp. x, xi ; cc. i, 67 

Taddeo, p. x; cc. i, 67 
Garlic for mordants, cc. 153, 165 

to make tempera lie on oil, p. 213 
Gesso, burnt gypsum, i.e. plaster of Paris (see p. 233), 
pp. xxiv, xxix, xxxiii; cc 4, 6, no, 184; pp. 
229-233 ; specifically called gesso grosso 
used for casting, cc. 185-187 ; pp. 232-238 

for grounds, cc. 115, 117 
for relief work, cc. 128, 169, 170; stiffened 

with tow, c. 170 

with egg-yolk and size over stone figures, c. 174 
Gesso sottile, i.e. slaked plaster of Paris, necessity of 

mixing it with size, pp. 233, 235 
preparation of, p. xxxiii; c 116; p. 233 

used for casting small objects, c. 187 

for delicate relief work, cc 124, 125, 

169, 174 

for gilding on parchment, cc 157, 158 

for grounds for gilding and painting, 

cc. 116-121 

276 Index 

Giallorinq, see Naples yellow 
Gilded glass, etching on, c. 1 7 1 
Gilder's -cushion, c. 134 

Gilding, in Pliny, p. xxi ; in Podlinnik^ p. xxi ; in Papyrus, 
p. xxii ; in Lucca MS., pp. xxiii, xxiv ; in Sche- 
dula^ p. xxix ; in ffermeneia, p. xxxiii 
cc. 4, 37 ; with terra-verde, cc. 51, 104, in, 116 
a stone figure, c. 174 
burnishing of, cc. 124, 134, 137, 138, 140, 141, 

143, 162, 168; p. 240 
fine quality in, pp. 239, 240 
imitation, c. 159 
on parchment, cc. 157, 158; p. 241 
on walls, cc. 95-103 
process of with white of egg for panels, &c., cc. 

123, 131-140 
stamping and engraving of, cc. 4, 104, 140, 142, 

143; p. 191 

with mordants, cc. 139, 151-153 
,, on canvas, cc. 162,^65, 166 

without burnishing, p. 241 
Gilt paper, c. 168 

Giotto, pp. ix, x, xi, xv, xvi, xviii; cc. i, 67, 185 
Glaire, see Egg-vehicles, White of Egg 
Glass cement, c. 107 
gems, c. 124, 143 
painting on, c. 94, 103, 171 
used in grinding orpiment, c. 47 
Glory (diadem, nimbus), cc. 98, 101, 102, 140 

on canvas, cc. 162, 165 
Glue, p. xx 

bull-glue, pp. xxiv, xxxiii, 234 

cheese-glue, c. 112. See also Fish-glue, Size 

Index 277 

Gold, alloyed, cc. 95, 151, 160; fine, cc. 95, 96, 98-101, 
143, 151, 160; pp. 241, 242 ; ground, c. 160 

background, cc. 138, 139, 140-143, 160; p. 239 

,, painting on, pp. 199, 243 

drapery, cc. 141-143 

leaf and beating* cc. 134, 139; pp. 241-243 

size, c. 99 

writing, cc. 157-160 
Greek green, see Verdigris 

tradition in technique, pp. x, xv, xviii, xxvi, xxvii, 


Grinding colours, cc. 4, 35, 36, 42, 47, 52, 59, 62, 93, 104 
Grounds, cc. 4, 104 

damp-proof for stone, c. 1 74 

for gilding on parchment, cc. 157, 

Egyptian, p. 229 ; in Pliny, pp. xxi, 232 ; in Lucca 
MS., p. xxiv ; in Schedula, pp. xxviii, xxix ; in 
Hermeneia, p. xxxiii 

of lead pigments and oil, pp. xxv, 222, 223 

of wood-ashes, c. 170 

practical directions 

for canvas, cc. 162-165 ; pp. 235, 237, 

for panels, cc. 109, no, 113-121 ; pp. 234, 

Gypsum, see Gesso 

HAIR-PAINTING, cc. 69, 148 

Hatching, pp. 204, 219 

Hermeneia, pp. xvii, xxv, xxvii, xxx, xxxi-xxxiv, 216, 217, 

237, 25 6 

278 . Index 

Honey, mentioned in early English accounts, p. 185 
Honey, used in a secco method, c. 177 

uses of, cc. 185, 187 ; pp. 236, 237, 241 

ICHTHYOCOLLA, pp xxi, xxiv, xxix. See also Fish-glue 
Icon, p. xvii 

Indigo, cc. 19, 47, 53, 61, 74, 75, 83, 144, 163, 173 
pp. 254, 256, 258 

KERMES lake, c. 62 ; pp. 252, 253 

LACQUER, pp. 241, 264 

Lake, cc. 44, 62, 72, 73, 76, 79, 83, 141, 142, 145, 149, 

i59 i?*; p. 252 

Lamp-black, c. 37 ; for printing on cloth, c. 173 ; p. 245 
Lapis-lazuli, p. xix; c. 62 ; p. 257 
Laurentiana MS., Preface; p. 140 (note) 
Leather in decoration, c. 169 
Leucas, p. xxi 
Leucophoron, pp. xxi, 232 
Leyden Papyrus, pp. xxii, xxiii, xxvi 
Liber Illuministarius^ p. 232 
Lime, a basis to pigments, c. 161 

a drier for oil, p. 222 

intonaco, pp. xix, xx, xxviii; cc. 67, 90, 102, 126, 
127, 144; pp. 215 etseqq.*. 

white, see Bianco Sangiovanni 
Linen in grounds, p. xxiv ; cc. 4, 114, 133, 170 ; pp. 229-231 

printing patterns on, c. 173 

stretched, see Canvas 

Index 179 

Lucanus, p. 220 

Lucca MS., pp. xxiii, xxv, xxvi, xxxiv, 221, 232, 242, 245, 

248, 256 
Lye, see Potash lye 

MADDER, pp. 245, 252, 258 

Mappa Clavicula, p. xxvi 

Marciana MS., p. 207 

Massicot, pp. xxxvi, 254 

Mastic, p. xxxiv; cc. 56, 62; pp. 262, 263 

Mead, as a vehicle, p. 184 

Milanese stucco, p. xxxi 

Milk, as a vehicle, p. 2 1 7 

Minever (vaio, or grey squirrel) brushes, c. 64 

tails, how to preserve, c. 66 
Miniature painting, cc. 154, 157, 159; pp. 184, 187, 196, 

207-209, 236, 241, 250 
pigments only suitable for, cc. 43, 49, 

50, 56, 161 
Minium, meaning red lead, pp. xxix, xxxvi; cc. 40, 41, 72, 

141, !73; PP- 247* 248, 250 
meaning vermilion, p. xxviii 
Montpelier MS., p. xxvi 
Mordants, gilding with, cc. 103, 104, 139, 143, 163, 165- 


preparation of, cc. 91, 92, 151-153 
Mosaic of crushed egg-shells on reliquaries, c. 172 

NAPLES yellow (giallorino), cc. 36, 45, 46, 50, 52, 72, 78, 

79, 86, 144; p. 254 
Norwich pictures, p. 224 

280 Index 

OCHRE, red, pp. xxi, xxxvi, xxxvii; cc. 22, 168; p. 245 

yellow, pp. xix, xxi ; cc. 45, 67, 72, 80 ; pp. 199, 253 
Oil, as a cure for damp walls, c. 1 75 

boiled, as varnish in Podlinnik, p. xxxv 

in combination with wax, pp. xxi, 249 

in gilding-ground in Hermeneia^ p. 236 

injuring the gesso ground of a panel, c. 175 

linseed, cc. 24, 37, 91, 92 

of cloves, as an antiseptic, p. 21 1 

of eggs, pp. 210, 211 ; how to extract, p. 213 ; dissolves 
amber, p. 213 

olive, c. 25 

preparation of, cc. 25, 26, 91, 92, 98 ; pp. 221, 222, 227 
Oil-painting, pp. xxix, xxx, xxxiv; cc. 89, 90, 93-95 

confused with tempera, p. 183 

historical sketch of, pp. 220-227 

occasional use of, cc. 143, 144, 150, 168, 179 

on glass, cc. 171, 172 
Ormolu, p. 241 
Orpiment, p. xxx; cc. 47, 53, 55, 72, 144, 177 ; p. 255 

red (realgar), c. 48 ; p. 207, 255 
Ottobonitnse MS. of Trattato, see Vatican MS. 

PACHECO, on tempera technique, pp. xxii, 204, 207 
Panels, or wood for painting on, pp. xxi, xxiv, xxv, xxix; 

cc. 4, 113, p. 228 
battening of, p. 229 

method of painting on, cc. 46, 103, 105. 122, 123, 

141-144, and esp. 145- 
150; also in oil, c. 89. 
referred to, cc. 162, 

ex 281 

Panels, ornamental frames surrounding,, allusions to, cc. 

113, 114, 117, 119, 121, 124, 134 
pigments chiefly suitable for, GC. 40, 41, 44, 47, 48, 

54-57, 59-62 
preparation of, before grounding, c. 113; pp. 228- 

priming and ornamenting of, cc. 109-125. See 

Grounds and Gilding 
protection afforded by, p. 237 
the tempera for, cc. 72, 145, 147 ; p. 183. See also 


Panselinos, pp. xxxi, xxxii, xxxiv, xxxvii 
Paper, how to paste it together, c. 105 
to draw on, cc. 10, 12, 13 
tinted, cc. 15, 16, 18-22, 32 
transparent, cc. 23, 25, 26 
Parchment, for transfer patterns, c. 141 
glue for, cc. 105, 108 
glue or size made from, cc. no, in, 113; 

P- 234 
laid over panels to paint on, pp. 230, 231 

tinted, cc. 15, 16, 17 

to draw on, cc. 10, 11 

transparent, for tracing, ec. 23, 24 

used in miniature painting, cc. 43, 154, 157- 

Pens, c. 14 

pen and ink drawing, cc. 13, 23, 122, 164, 166 
pen outlines in miniatures, c. 157 
Pezzuole, see Clothlet colours 
Pisan pictures, pp. xxv, xxxiv 
Pitch, cc. 128, 130, 176 
Plaster of Paris, see Gesso 

282 Index 

Pliny, pp. xix, xx, xxii, xxiv, xxv, xxix, xxxi, xxxiii, 217, 220, 

228, 232, 245, 252, 253, 255-257 
Podlinnik, pp. xxi, xxxii, xxxv 
Porphyry slab, cc. 16, 25, 36, 42, 62, 132, 136, 160 

synonym of sinopia, c. 38 
Porporina (imitation gold), c. 159 
Portfolio, c. 29 

Potash lye, pp. xxx, xxxiv; cc. 49-62, 161, 173 
Precious stones, c. 143 (imitation), c. 124 
Proportions in drawing, cc. 30, 70 
Purple colours (bisso, morella, pagonazzo), cc. 18, 42, 73, 

74, 78, 145, 146 
Purpurissum, p. 256 

QUICKSILVER in imitation gilding, c. 159 

REALGAR, see Orpiment (red) 

Relief working, cc. 4, 104-109, 116, 125, 131 

in gesso, and in tin, cc. 143, 169, 187 

on walls, cc. 126-130 
Reliefs, varnishing of, cc. 156, 169 
Resin, p. xxi; cc. 62, 151 
Riccardiana MS. of the Trattato, Preface, pp. xii, 116 


Rosetta (stamping tool), c. 142 
Russian painting methods, pp. xxi, xxxii, xxxv 

pictures, p. xvii , 

SAFFRON (crocus), p. xxiii; cc. 49, 173; pp. 217, 255 
Sainte Chapelle, p. xxv 

Index 283 

Sanguigno, c. 148 

Schedule pp. xxvi, xxvii, xxix, xxx, xxxiv, xxxv, 184, 221, 

222, 230, 234, 247, 256 

Schlettstadt copy of Lucca MS., p. xxvi 

Secco-painting, general directions for, cc. 72, 95, 126, 146, 

150; pp. 183, 184, 217 
draperies in, cc. 72, 73, 75, 77, 79, 80-84 
pigments for, on walls, cc. 38, 44, 51-54* 

60, 62, 72 

special method with terra-verde, c. 177 
tempera on panels called secco, p. 218 

See also Fresco 
Shields, decoration of, c. 144 
Siena, cc. 60, 67 ; p. 231 
Size or glue, see p. 234 
flexibility of, p. 236 
in Egyptian remains, pp. 229, 230, 257 
mentioned in early English accounts, p. 185 
mixed with egg. See Egg-vehicles 
not to be used stale, pp. 214, 235 
preparation of, cc. 109, no, in ; p. 234 
used as a mordant in modern gilding, p. 241 
a tempera, pp. xx, xxxiv ; alluded to by Vasari, 

p. 185 

for certain pigments, cc. 49, 53, 55, 
56, 60, 61, 83, in, 140, 143* 
144, 163, 177; pp. 199* 22 7, 

in tinting drawing-paper, cc. 16, 


rules for using, p. 214 

in gesso for relief-work and casting, cc. 125, 128, 
170, 187 

284 Index 

Size used in grounds, pp. xxi, xxiv, xxix, xxxiii ; cc. no, 1 1 1, 
113, 115, 117, 119, 162, 163, 168, 170* pp. 

in same picture as egg, c. 141 ; pp. 199, 214 
over gilding, p. 241 
to prepare canvas for grounding, cc. 162, 165 ; 

p. 238 

leather for grounding, c. 169 
panels cc. 113, 114, 

118, 170 

stone cc. 94, 174 
walls for oil-painting, c. 90 
under varnish, cc. in, 178 
Silvering, cc. 95, 142, 143 
Sinopia, p. xxi; cc. 38, 45; pp. 245, 251 

uses of, cc. 21, 39, 67, 72, 80, 82, 83, 147 
Sloane MS., pp. xxix, 223 
Soap in grounds, p. 237 
Sponge, cc. 72, 90, 131, 155, 174, 177 
Starch in grounds, c. 162 
Stoglaff, a Russian painting guide, p. xxxii 
Stone, cement for, c. 106 
gilding on, c. 174 
painting on, cc. 89, 94 
Strasburg MS., pp. xxxv, 209, 225 
Style, for drawing, cc. 8, 10-12, 30, 142, 172 

method of drawing with, c. 8 
Sugar in grounds, cc. 158, 162-165; pp. 236, 237, 

241 * 

Sulphur for impressions of medals, c. 188 

in egg, pp. 212, 254 
, in porporina, .159 
in vermilion, pp. 247-249 

Index 285 

TABLETS for drawing, cc. 5, 6, 104 

Tallow in gilding, p. xxxiii 

Technical traditions, pp. xxvi, xxvii, xxix, xxxiv, 184 

Tempera or yolk-of-egg painting, pp. 183, 195, 198, 218 

advantages of, pp. 213, 214 

ancient, p. xxii 

as under-painting to oil, pp. 209, 213, 236, 238 

called a putridO) p. 207 

chemistry of, pp. 210 et seqq. 

comparison of with oil-painting, pp. 188, 189, 
204, 205, 210, 223, 224 

with fresco, p. 217 

early English, pp. 184, 223, 224 

grounds for, see Canvas, Panel 

ideals of, and Ruskin's description of them, 

pp. i9i '9* 

permanence of, pp. 206, 210 
qualities of, pp. 185, 186, 188, 190, 191, 194, 

203, 204, 218, 224 

skies in, Ruskin's description of, p. 193 
system of chiaroscuro in, pp. 200, 202, 203 
technique and stages of a picture in, pp. 218, 219 
washing of, pp. 186, 264. See also Drapery, 

Panels, method of painting on 

Terra-verde, cc. 16, 20, 51, 57, 72, 77, 86, 150; p. 255 
as a shade or ground colour, cc. 67, 87, 147, 

148; p. 202 

for a gilding ground, cc. 51, 133 
Theophilus, see Schedula 
Theophrastus, pp. xix, 232 
Tin, gilt, used on walls, cc. 95-97, 99, 143 
reliefs, cc. 128, 159, 170 
used instead of silver, c. 95 

286 Index 

Tortoise-bile, p. xxiii 
Transfer patterns, cc. 4, 105, 141, 142 
Trattato (of Cennino), Preface, pp. ix, xii, xiii, xv et seqq. 
232, 233, 2 4o 

ULTRAMARINE, cc. 36, 55, 72, 73, 75,. 77, 83, 141, 143, 

145, 146, 172; pp. 224, 257 
Umber, p. xxxviii 
Urine, grinding lake in, c. 44 

VARNISH, pp. xxiv, xxix, xxx 

as a remedy for damp walls, c. 176 

as a vehicle, c. 179; pp. 191, 209, 225 

in colour-printing, c. 173 

in mordants, cc. 91, 151 

should not be mixed with tempera, p. 186 

Cennino's, p. 262 

Van Eyck's, pp. 225, 256 

See also cc. 97, 99, 101, 107, 129 
Varnish painting, pp. 191, 209, 256 
Varnishing, cc. 4, in, 153, 154, 155, 165, 169, 170, 174, 
*77> 178 

over gold, cc. 162, 165; p. 262 
Vasari, notice of Cennino, pp. xiii, xiv 

of tempera-painting, cc. 183, 185, 188-190 

allusions to pigments, pp. 245, 255, 258 
Vatican MS. of the Trattato, Preface, p. xii ; called Otto- 

bonian, p. 140 (note) 

Vehicles, j^Beer, Bran-water, Egg- vehicles, Whole egg, Yolk 

of egg, White of egg, Fig-milk, Fish-glue, Gum, and Gum 

Arabic, .Mead, Milk, Oil, Size, Varnish, Wax, Wine 
Velvet, painting on, c. 165 

Index 287 

Venice turpentine, pp. 256, 262, 263 

Verdaccio, cc. 67-69, 85-87, 90, 147, 148, 1.50 

Verde-azzurro, see Verditer 

Verderame, or verdigris, cc. 49, 56, 72, 98, 143, 150-152, 

172. 173; P- 2 56 
Verde-terra, see Terra-verde 
Verditer, cc. 52, 86, 150 ; p. 256 

blue, see Azzurro della magna 
Vermiculum, p. 251 
Vermilion, see Cinnabar 
Verzino, see Brazil-wood 
Vessels to dontain colours, cc. 36, 67, 93 

to keep brushes in oil, c. 93 
Vinegar used in miniature painting, p. 184 

with egg-vehicles, pp. 207-211 

with verdigris, c. 56 
Vitruvius, pp. xix, xx, xxii, 220 
Volterrano, c. 115, 184. See also Gesso 

WALLS, gold adornments and reliefs on, cc. 95-103 
painting on, pp. xix, xx, xxviii ; cc. 4, 67 et seqq. 

in oil, cc. 89-91, 144, 148, 150 
to cure damp in, cc. 175, 176 
Water-colour drawing, cc. 10, 13, 31, 32, 122, 161, 162 
Wax, in fresco, pp. xx, 220 
in other painting, pp. xx, xxi, xxiv, xxy, xxviii, xxxi, 


polish or varnish, pp. xxi, xxv, xxx, xxxi, xxxiv 
reliefs and casts, cc. 130, 187, 188 
saponified, as a vehicle, pp. xx, xxx, xxxi 
other uses of, cc. 62, 106 
Westminster painting, pp. 185, 222-224, 231, 242 

288 Index 

White lead, or biacca, pp. xxviii, xxxiv, xxxvii; cc. 6, 16, 
18, 19, 20-22, 31, 32, 59, 72, 107, 141, 145* IS 1 * 15*5 
p. 256 

Whitening, see Chalk 

Wilton triptych, p. 185 

Wine, as a vehicle, pp. xxx, 184, 185 
in gilding, c. 153 

YELLOW ochre, see Ochre 
ZINC white, p. 256 


RtprinUd in Saxony by tht ..Obral" proctss 


MAY 4 1983 



ND Cennini, Cennino 
1130 til libro dell'arte. 
C?8l3 English: 
1922 The book of the art of 
Cennino Cennini